The Continuing Crisis at Weems Hospital
The following is an open letter than I am sending to our membership and friends. Next Tuesday the 21st of February at 9:00 a.m. in the courthouse annex the County Commission will meet for its second meeting of the month. It is my hope that the county will address the issues I have laid out in my email to them today. If you can attend, please do. Read what I have written below and please send me your comments.
To Our Commissioners:
Thank you for addressing the continuing debacle at Weems. With the departure last week of the CFO at Weems and TMH’s decision this week to not entertain an agreement with the county on running Weems; we find ourselves at an impasse. It is true that the ballot initiative some 10 years ago promised a new hospital to the people of Franklin County. The Chairman has eloquently expressed his desire to fulfil that pledge. What is currently planned is not a new Hospital and the people understand that what is contemplated amounts to a renovation and addition, not a new hospital. That promise to the people has already been broken. We have no way forward to building a new hospital, fully equipped and staffed at the level of a hospital like Sacred Heart as just an example. The cost to do so including matching services of other full service hospitals would cost upwards of $25 million. And, where would the patients and staff come from? 40% of our employees today live out of county I was recently told. Everyone has to understand that. If the Renovation and Additions move forward, we will still have no operating rooms or surgeons, no physical therapy, no dialysis, no digital imaging and on and on. With this starting point we then look at the millions of dollars currently owed with no reasonable expectation that we can catch up, and with the further expectation that we will continue to deplete the Capital Portion of the Healthcare Trust Fund going forward. How can things get worse?
They can. On March 7th the contract extension agreement with TMH expires. Do we have any assurance that TMH will extend that agreement and are commissioners even ok with an extension? At least one Commissioner has expressed a desire to change the CEO’s compensation plan. What is our plan should Mike Cooper leave without notice? I am not saying that he will, but we’ve been there before. There are a lot of balls in the air and the Commission needs to take a no nonsense stand on what our options are. Punting a decision down the road is unthinkable. Everyone involved knows there is a train wreck coming. The 85 employees of Weems and the Clinics deserve certainty. The citizens of Franklin County deserve certainty. Commissioners want certainty but are not doing what is required of them as the weeks and months of inaction prove only so well. Recently one Commissioner made a motion to go out for a Request for Proposals to manage and assume financial risk. That motion died for lack of a second. Why? The fact that you are a collective body has hindered the process to date. I hope this coming Tuesday this body of good people decides to act in the best interest of Franklin County Citizens as they do on most everything else. There are options. There are answers. Step one is realizing, finally realizing, that this problem is not going away whether we wish it to or not. The most important promise that was made to the people was one of access to good health care. You can still do that and never be ashamed of breaking promises. Let’s not act under crisis. We still have a short window to plan and execute. I hope this issue is fully discussed at next Tuesday’s meeting followed by a Workshop
Allan Feifer Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
There you have it. BIS may be the technique that finally breaks up this logjam. BIS is Butts in Seats. If the Commission sees that their constituents are paying attention, they are more likely to act. Show Commissioners that you are unwilling to pay higher property taxes to support a ship sinking under its own weight. After the Trust Fund is depleted you are next. Even more importantly, demand better healthcare outcomes than we receive today. Good health should be a fundamental demand for the money we are already paying.
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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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