Geary Community Hospital’s boiler has been fixed after a problem with the boiler caused surgeries to halt for a day last week.
According to Interim CEO Don Smithburg, there is “significant deferred maintenance at the hospital and we are getting our arms around that,” but the boiler in question is back in commission.
There is a mutual aid agreement, Smithburg said, between GCH and several area hospitals, including Irwin Army Community Hospital, to where surgical tools could have been ferried between IACH and GCH if need be.
However, this agreement never needed to come into play, he said.
“We, the hospital, would shuttle our instruments up to them, have them sterilized and then brought back,” Smithburg said. “They have the same deal with us if they have a problem. They — it’s a mutual aid deal — and that we were prepared in the event we couldn’t sterilize our own equipment. We were prepared to execute that mutual aid agreement. We didn't have to, but we were prepared to."
GCH never had to put the agreement to the test, he said, but the hospital does have chronic problems with maintenance.
Smithburg has also let it be known that the hospital is suffering financial issues and has been for a long time. The hospital is in debt, with overdue bills to pay.
“We have $6 million outstanding in payables,” he said. “And we'd like to be closer to $2 million. That would be standard in the industry."
Part of the conversation surrounding GCH and its finances has included its amount of cash on hand. Though the hospital reportedly had a good month in October, it was recently revealed that GCH had about one day’s worth of cash on hand.
Smithburg shed some light on how this happened.
“While we had a good month operationally in October — and with no guarantee that that's going to stick — we just had good — good patient volume,” he said. "And when we have good patient volume, we're generally going to do okay. But because of the past financial problems, there have been problems with keeping up with paying vendors. And this goes back a few years. And so as a result, we — there are a lot of outstanding bills to vendors. And so while we may have a good month operationally, it's going to take a while to catch up with all of those past due bills.”
Extra cash brought in during October went to paying down the hospital’s debts.
Smithburg said he expects the situation to remain the same for a while — with low cash on hand — as debts are paid.
He does not believe GCH will ever find itself with less than one day’s cash on hand.
“If we were, it would be very brief,” Smithburg said. “But we have some ability to fall back if we need to, you know, we have — if we have to exercise it — a line of credit. We would like to explore county assistance, and we're in discussions with the county about ways that that might take place. And I'm not at liberty to say what they are yet because we're just exploring that right now. And moreover, if Medicaid is expanded in this legislative session, it would hit in July in all likelihood, and that would provide us with some relief as well.”
Chair of the Geary County Commission Charles Stimatze was also questioned as to what the county might do if GCH ever dropped below one day’s worth of cash on hand.
"I don't know,” he said. “We’re obviously giving them the max amount of mills that we can give them.”
Stimatze said it would fall to the hospital’s Board of Trustees — GCH’s governing body, which the county appoints — to determine what had to be done.
“We're doing what we can on the county side by giving the maximum amount of mills that we can,” he said.