Crisis at Weems Hospital
The vast majority of healthcare in Franklin County is delivered by Doctors and Hospitals from out of county. Of the care delivered inside the county Weems East and West, the Health Department and various private Doctors and Nurses deliver the bulk of in county healthcare. I hear report after report of people happy with the clinics (at least until lately) and unhappy with Weems Hospital itself. We are not going to beat up on Weems Hospital today since it’s unfortunately imploding on its own. Daily overnight stays averaging one 1⁄2 per night, an 85 person staff and many primary services simply unavailable at the Hospital continue to be the real reason Weems is unable to attract enough patients and Doctors to be viable. Today, I simply want to report to you what is happening in county meetings this last week.
Tuesday at the normal county commission meeting, Commissioner Noah Lockley made a motion to terminate the management contract with TMH effective immediately, which was subsequently modified to the end of the contract between TMH and Weems. I guess no one was keeping up with the paperwork, because when they looked up the termination date, they found that it had already passed on January 2nd . Last Friday January the 20th, a special meeting was held of the County Commissioners to decide what to do. Hospital Management had told employees that the hospital was going to close if they did not make their voices heard at the Friday meeting. County Commissioners were not happy. The following is some of my notes from that meeting:
- CEO and CFO not present. Chairman Parrish says they are no longer employed. (this will have changed by end of meeting)
- Commissioner Sanders talked about why we are here today. Explained to audience what's happening with the relationship with TMH and it’s not about the hospital. She expressed her desire to put interim management in.
- Chairman Parrish says we need a management agreement with someone. He supports an agreement with TMH. Hospital will close without a management contract. Parrish wants to have TMH takeover completely, taking the Commission out of the loop. Smokey was agitated and wants an end to the current issues constantly being brought before the Board. Smokey says the county has a mandate from the citizens to provide healthcare.
- Commissioner Lockley expressed his reservations as to the accuracy of the hospital's financial reporting. He stated that the two people getting paid by TMH (the CEO and CFO) are not delivering results and should not be getting the benefit package they receive. Lockley defended his motion to terminate the management contract, talking to the many hospital employees in the audience.
- Commissioner Massey says the workers never hear the true story from hospital management. He also said that Cooper sent an email to the Board last week that they will need more money from the Capital side of the Trust Fund within a month or two. This may be the proximate cause as to why this is coming to a head.
- Commissioner Jones said he wants somebody who is knowledgeable and can take responsibility to take over. Wants to give up control in exchange for getting out of the hospital business. Board is for quality healthcare.
- Parrish proposed that the management contract be extended by 60 days to allow for a management contract to be negotiated with TMH. What he really meant was someone to lease the hospital and to take over full financial responsibility with some caveats.
- Jim Bachrach spoke and said TMH has no interest in taking over the hospital itself. That they needed a partner to make this viable with expertise in Critical Care Access.
- I spoke to the issue at hand from the CCFC's point of view. Several other supporters of the hospital spoke as well. Approximately 75 people in the audience. I had written up a position paper and gave it to all Commissioners prior to the meeting. I praised the decision to go out and seek an entity to take over but expressed that only talking to TMH limited our ability to negotiate and could lead to us not having anyone to move forward with in sixty days and being in the position of being up against the wall. I specifically suggested that talking to other neighbor healthcare systems could not hurt us and could only help us understand the issues and what is reasonable to expect and what is not.
- Motion by Lockley to extend the agreement with TMH by 60 days while negotiations with TMH go forward passed.
For years now, the CCFC has focused on the financial numbers. Those numbers tell us that no one can run Weems profitably. Weems receives approximately $2 million a year in various subsidies and that’s not enough. Weems has current Accounts Payable of about $2 million owed to vendors, the County and TMH with no real ability to pay that back. While everyone says that quality healthcare for the citizens of Franklin County is a priority, the decisions taken and the care delivered belie that assertion.
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Allan J. Feifer
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”
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