By J.R. SPARKE
Contributor to Reflector-Chronicle
Newly-seated Herington City Commissioner Chuck Miller didn’t mince words or attempt to conceal his frustration after two Herington Municipal Hospital officials reported details for the health care facility’s budget for 2013-14 during a regular semi-monthly commission meeting Tuesday.
Miller, who took office last month, was visibly upset when he talked about a request for $55,000 from the city to help fund a budget, which projects $7,450,191 in net patient service revenues and $7,535,020 in operating expenses for a loss of $84,829. However, non-operating revenues, including a $50,000 grant from the City of Herington, gives HMH $66,171 on the positive side of the ledger.
“You guys are in trouble (financially),” Miller told hospital CEO Mike Ryan and CFO Pat Moyer. “You say you’re doing good (financially). I don’t believe it.”
Miller said he had been researching the hospital’s financial history and was developing a paper trail to prove is argument.
“Something’s got to give,” Miller said, adding he didn’t know how citizens could handle a tax raise if the commission approved the $55,000 request through a mill levy increase. “I don’t see how we can give it to you.”
The commissioner looked directly at Ryan when he said, “And you don’t even live here.”
Ryan commutes from his home at Hillsboro to his job at the hospital.
Miller also challenged Ryan about a recent pay increase that the CEO’s annual salary to more than $120,000 annually.
Moyer said most Critical Access hospitals, of which HMH is one, are generally supported through taxation.
She also mentioned the hospital is continuing to recover from a period when finances took a sharp downturn after two physicians closed their practices at the clinic attached to HMH. The Docs Who Care organization then provided services on a contract basis for several months, which was very costly, it was noted.
Moyer said the hospital recently paid the city several thousands of dollars more than a recent grant amount in an effort to become current on the facility’s electricity bill. She said the plan is for HMH to pay off the remaining past due amount in the near future.
She extended an invitation to Miller to go the hospital and have the matter more clearly explained, admitting it was difficult for someone on the outside to understand. Miller expressed interest in the invitation.
Earlier in the meeting, Moyer said it had been difficult to building the 2013-14 budget for a variety of factors, including a first-time contract with a company for the provision of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy services; the concern for the stability of a four-slice CT scanner compared to a state-of-the art machine which performs a 64-slice operation; hiring a new physician; the final reimbursement effects of the Kansas Medicaid program transition to three managed care organizations, collectively known as KanCare; and the effect of sequestration on Medicare reimbursements.
Moyer said Medicare had been reimbursing the hospital at a 101 percent rate. However, this will be changing to 98 percent in the near future.
HMH officials also plan
to raise room rates and the costs charged to patients for a variety of services in response to increased costs sustained by the hospital.
(See: Hospital, page 6)
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Among those are increases in employment benefit plans, individual merit pay increases and market salary adjustments to stay competitive with other health care facilities.
Moyer said work is continuing to develop a hospital district, which would take much of the financial burden away from the city.
Several other matters also were addressed by the commission.
Governing body members gave their blessing to a request from Herington resident Tim Rowe to invite state American Legion officials to Herington as a possible site for the June, 2014, American Legion State Bike Rally. In this reference, bike means motorcycle.
Commissioners agreed to forgive special assessments on a house recently constructed in the Logan Pointe residential sub-division and which is owned and occupied by Mike and Debbie Wendt, 1450 Gehrke Court. The forgiveness was in line with commission action taken by adoption of a resolution in November 2012.
A high bid of $1,501 from Ben Castleberry of Herington for a 1/2-acre parcel of land-locked land located behind BC Salvage along the east side of South Fifth Street was accepted by the commission.
L&J Tire of Herington had submitted a bid of $1,001.25.
City Manager Ron Strickland reviewed two proposed ordinances relating to aquatic species nuisance education courses to help combat the spread of zebra mussels and other similar water animals to the Herington Reservoir, Lake Herington and Father Padilla Memorial Park Lake.
Mayor Robbin Bell asked that the public be made more aware of the proposed ordinances and allowed time to provide input before the commission took action. The matter was informally tabled until the next regular meeting on June 18.
In a related matter, Strickland said he had received information from a company which is specializing in ridding lakes and other impoundments of zebra mussels.
Mike Wendt was appointed to the city’s board of zoning appeals. His term is to expire Oct. 24, 2015.
Strickland briefly addressed a question about the possible formation of a Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation. The question was based upon written information he had provided to the commission after attending a recent meeting in Abilene.
He said the talks were preliminary at this point, but that more meetings were planned.
An EDC formed several years ago in Pottawatomie County had proven successful, Strickland said.
City Attorney Brad Jantz also spoke highly of the Harvey County EDC.
Strickland also mentioned that a sod company will be installing sod outside the Community Building in coming weeks and that he has sent letters to several companies seeking cost quotes for removal of asbestos at the former municipal power plant as part of the plan to decommission the plant.