010920-du-county

The Geary County Commission heard Monday from Interim CEO of Geary Community Hospital Don Smithburg and several members of the hospital’s board of trustees.

Geary Community Hospital has been in trouble for a long time. At this point, this is not a disputed fact.

However, the hospital continues to try to drag itself out of the hole and it has requested help from the Geary County Commission.

Monday, Interim CEO Don Smithburg and several members of the hospital’s board of trustees attended a county commission meeting where the commission received an update on the hospital’s progress.

Accounts payable have traditionally been an issue for GCH.

According to Smithburg, the hospital spends about $4 million annually on “indigent care,” meaning care for the uninsured who are unable to pay their hospital bills.

Though Medicaid expansion has been floated as a way to help GCH, Smithburg said it might not help in every aspect because it won’t cover mental health needs for many Kansans.

“We are focusing a great deal of attention on continuing to look at ways to patch together different revenue streams,” he said. “There were three I just wanted to touch on for you right now. One is a little bit of innovative program — it’s a company called Wellness Works.”

According to Smithburg, he and his team at CHC have worked with the program in other rural hospitals such as GCH.

“They’re a company that comes in and they help us hire a full time marketing person that goes out and markets the hospital services – physician services — to businesses,” he said.

Through this system, he said, the hospital could partner with local businesses to provide services such as lab work, employee physicals, and similar programs.

Some of these services might be “outside the scope of the current insurance offerings or or they don’t offer insurance, but it’s something — that service — that they need, and that we hopefully can provide at a very efficient cost.”

GCH is currently laying this program out for the board to review in the hopes the hospital will consider contracting with the business.

The local hospital is also looking seriously into offering more telemedicine clinics such as the ones offered at its Children’s Mercy Clinics. If any new telemedicine clinics were to be instated, they could be offered to patients within GCH and could allow a variety of services to be provided by specialists the hospital might otherwise not be able to bring in.

“We’re getting closer on telemedicine program where we can have more physician services — more specialty services,” Smithburg said.

This would allow patients who currently have to receive services elsewhere to stay in the community and allow GCH to retain patients that might otherwise need to be transferred to another hospital.

“It’s complex because of HIPAA requirements — medical record requirements and the like,” Smithburg said. “But there are a couple of national companies out there that are very good at this … So I’m really hoping to get that going this first quarter of the calendar year.”

Another possibility that has been floated by GCH is for the county to offer more financial help to the hospital, in the form of an increased number of mills offered to GCH from the county.

“We’ve talked to you all pretty consistently about our desire to look at a millage increase referendum,” Smithburg said.

However, the county is still uncertain as to whether this is something taxpayers will vote in favor of.

Commission Chair Charles Stimatze said the county was not far enough along in the process to elaborate further than Smithburg already had.

Smithburg did not provide the county with a December financial report for the hospital because, he said, the books had not been closed out yet for the month.

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