An Open Letter to our Franklin County Commissioners - The Wolf is at the Door

on Friday, 15 December 2017.

The Wolf is at the Door

Last Tuesday afternoon there was a Commissioner Workshop to discuss the pending/proposed Franklin County Government and Community Healthcare Corporation (CHC) Agreement to manage Weems Healthcare System. The contract as proposed is between the County and CHC and not with Weems because CHC does not have the confidence that Weems can pay them and has demanded that the County back the Agreement. This demonstrates the low level of confidence CHC has in Weems viability right at the get go.

And, this comes on the heels of Commissioners firing TMH last month starting a 90 day clock that will result in the loss of our Chief Executive Officer at Weems. Without a CEO, by law, Weems must close immediately.

And, this is after CHC was paid $55,000 for an Operational Assessment (OA) approved in April of this year. The OA broke no new ground for anyone on the local scene but changed CHC’s role from an anticipated risk sharing partner to one of damage control intermediary. CHC stated as much at the Workshop by continuing to reference the short term nature of the contract and the need to take at least six months to see if there is anything substantive they can do to turn around Weems. In fact the term “Best Efforts” was continually used by CHC to characterize their level of responsibility both legally and operationally. Best Efforts is the lowest legal bar there is. When County Attorney Shuler asked for a higher level of liability, he was rebuffed by CHC.

County Commissioners have tried to put a good face on it, but over and over it was evident to everyone in the audience, there were no metrics for success and no plan that CHC was willing to hang their financial hat on. So for everyone’s benefit, here are some of the key issues that the CHC Agreement will not achieve:

  1. There will be no measuring stick to ensure progress as its not in the Agreement
  2. There is no timetable that would back up a measuring stick, if it were included.
  3. CHC will be paid $30,000 a month, but has no defined set of responsibilities for which it is accountable. Anything not specifically covered in the Agreement, they are silent on.
  4. CHC has requested additional expenses of up to $60,000 a year; 12 months times $5,000 a month, but has not clearly defined what those expenses would be.
  5. CHC hires the CEO and pays him/her but passes along those costs to the County in addition to the monthly fee of $30,000. And, is demanding relocation money and other employment guarantees no matter what happens to the Agreement with the County.
  6. CHC has indicated the need to hire additional consultants from time-to-time with some of those consultants being CHC employees or affiliates but without any budget or forecast, just the assurance that the BOCC can veto a request for consultants.
  7. CHC is unwilling to be responsible for any mistake, even their own, no matter what the repercussions as long as they applied their “best efforts” to the decision making and execution process. This still leaves the County Commission fully exposed both financially and legally.
  8. CHC wants the County to name it Additional Insured under its various policies, but refuses to protect the county reciprocally for its bad acts.
  9. CHC has never run an ambulance or EMS service, but says it’s “game” to take on ours if they have to!
  10. Most importantly, CHC after spending $55,000 to “study” Weems did not tie its report into anything actionable going forward.

Last month, Weems came to the Commission once again to ask for money to meet payroll. Now they have been grudgingly approved for up to another three payrolls, about $540,000. Keep in mind that we still owe $690,000 from last year and owe TMH another $650,000 and that’s not all the money that Weems owes. We are going down the same rabbit hole we’ve gone down before. Even if we can make a deal with CHC, the need for more cash is critical, not to expand and thrive, but just to hang on. CHC will likely cost the County another $750,000 to a $1,000,000 in additional costs during the first 12 months of this Agreement. Promises made without any downside to CHC are as so much Pie in the Sky. We wonder; do even the Commissioners have any confidence in a good result?

What Commissioner will have the strength to speak the truth? The truth Weems cannot go it alone one day more. It is time to do what has been obvious for years; invite Sacred Heart to make a proposal that in one stroke would deliver better health care to the citizens of Franklin County, protect jobs and guarantee an end to raids on the Peoples’ Treasury. It is our belief that there are zero negatives to asking for a proposal. Are we going to wait until the Hospital is forced to close or is in such bad financial shape that we have no ability to negotiate at all? Are we waiting for the State to shut us down? The wolf is at the door and it is no one’s fault but ours.

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