Weems on the Edge

on Monday, 03 June 2019.

Franklin County Happenings

Hello Friends:

Everyone needs to know what’s happening at Weems. It’s reached the point of being hard to believe, but it’s all true. The Hospital Board is all for the Town Hall Meetings we proposed, but after they sign for the loan, not before! Now, with the current stumbles you will read about below, it’s possible that the Commission will pause and take another look before jumping off the bridge. Read below, contact your Commissioner and let him know what you think. We are just about to launch this year’s budget cycle, but Weems is the budgets worst nightmare, threatening to gobble up General Tax Revenues in excess of the Health Care Trust Fund Money (sales tax) that they consume today in addition to many other subsidies. Did you know that Weems own records show they average less than one patient in the hospital a night for the last year? Read on….

An Open Letter to the Commissioners of Franklin County Community Healthcare Crisis
Is there a successful financial future for Weems Hospital?

Weems Hospital is in freefall. What has happened in just the last 30 days? Commissioner Boldt, local residents Gail Riegelmayer and Allan Feifer of the CCFC met with Weems CEO HD Cannington on May 14th to uncover facts concerning Weems’ current and future financial health. We asked about the financial feasibility of building a new hospital, what it will cost the taxpayers, what services will be offered, how a future Weems will compete with Sacred Heart and other medical services companies in Franklin County. We asked what the plan is if the one-cent sales tax cannot cover the costs for building and out-fitting a new hospital. A total of 32 financial health questions were asked

We asked Mr. Cannington for a copy of Weems Vision Statement and Income Projections and Balance Sheet for Weems projected new construction. We asked for Pro Forma projections that would have been required by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Franklin County’s application for the pending $10.2 million dollar loan. We asked if hospital designs had been finalized and what the new facility will cost based on those projected configurations. We asked if there will be any additional new services after the project is completed. We asked, what are the funding plans to bridge the gap from construction to any expected ramp-up in revenues to cover interim losses? Also asked for was a competitive analysis taking Weems competitors into account for market share purposes. We asked if Weems could realistically expect to repay the USDA note and how will Weems fund a Physician Recruitment Plan costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to construction and equipment costs. We asked if Weems’ design been approved by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA.)

The answer to all of the above was either “No,” “I don’t know.” or “We don’t have it.” We were dumbfounded by that lack of financial projections, fiscal understanding and planning for a realistic county health care future.

Especially worrisome about those incomplete answers was that the Weems’ Hospital Board was to vote in two days on construction of a new hospital! Then, on May 21st, the projected construction was scheduled to be voted on by the County Commission. But, due to an acknowledged lack of available information, the Weems Hospital Board meeting was canceled; thus, the matter never was discussed at the subsequent County Commission Meeting.

Last Thursday, May 30th, the Hospital Board met and among the items discussed at the meeting was that our third CFO in the last two years was missing in action…no one knew where he was nor when he would return. In addition, April financial statements were not available.

We also became aware that in a surprise inspection, serious deficiencies were discovered by AHCA last week, and an emergency action was needed in order that the hospital would not be closed for Life Safety issues! (Just one of those problems is that sprinkler heads had been painted over.) The emergency action taken was that a Sheriff’s Deputy was hired for a 24/7 Fire Watch, requiring that the Deputy walk the hospital every 15 minutes at a cost of time and a half salary

Later in that same May 30th Hospital Board meeting, the subject of the new Weems Construction was brought up. As you may remember, Commissioners gave Mr. Cannington yet another $50,000 last December to update the cost to build a new hospital. Now, six months later, there is still no “hard pricing” for the construction project. Instead, there is an architect’s unsigned letter guesstimating a new cost of possibly $17 million! But even this projection is not firm since the architect points out a “Partial List of Exclusions” which could indeed cost millions more.

Now we come to the issue of lawsuits and lack of insurance coverage to handle them. Discussed briefly at last week’s Hospital Board is a lawsuit by a former Doctor who was paid a signing bonus of $10-$25 thousand dollars, who worked three days and was then fired, but who kept his bonus. In addition, there are other lawsuits likely to occur as a result of a botched background check on an Emergency Medical Technician who is accused of multiple sexual crimes and is now sitting in jail. Weems only did an FDLE background check which typically only picks up warrants and crimes in Florida. The more rigorous FBI background check was not pursued. According to an article in the Apalachicola Times, this same EMT was accused of a similar crime in Michigan. Insurance coverage that the hospital had at that time these events occurred was limited to $100,000 per incident with $250,000 per occurrence. Only recently, the County raised its insurance limits at the hospital but it is our opinion that amount it is still insufficient. And, there is another pending litigation with a former EMT still out there.

Commissioners, it is time to reevaluate and change our thinking around the idea of building a new hospital. Circumstances in the healthcare industry and laws have greatly changed. The costs to build and compete with a new hospital have significantly increased since the 1-cent sales tax was voted on by the public back in 2007. Indeed, the healthcare industry changes and increased costs are all out of your direct control. But we must accept these facts as our reality now, and we develop a different path forward to bring quality healthcare to Franklin County.

The people of Franklin County would be better served, both financially and through improved healthcare, if this Board built a standalone, first-class Emergency Department with beds like other rural communities around the country have successfully done. Weems cannot adequately or successfully compete with other better funded facilities which have a broader range of services. It’s time to hear from your constituents and find out what they think and need TODAY. We request that you follow through on the Weems Hospital Board’s recommendation to hold Public Workshops around the county to hear from the community to determine the best path forward for quality healthcare in Franklin County. The CCFC stands willing and ready to help the County to ensure a strong turnout for these Workshops.

We understand that the wording of the ballot of the 1-cent sales tax referendum was to build a new hospital. We are sensitive to the pressure you must feel to honor this promise. However, the referendum was not specific as to how big, what kind of hospital or where it would be located. In today’s healthcare environment and overwhelming costs, please make your decisions based on current facts and realities, and not the hopes and dreams from 2007 and the failures of leadership.

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

Still haven’t paid your 2019 Dues? We really need your support to continue on with the work we undertake for you. Thank you for past and continued support. Send us a check today (please write your email address on the check) at the address below while you are still thinking about us. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://www.abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc to join today. We depend on your support! Membership dues are not tax deductible.

Thank you for your current and past support!


Allan J. Feifer
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(850) 653-5571

“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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861