Breckenridge Texan

SMH board, administrators discuss rural hospital issues with Rogers at recent meeting

SMH board, administrators discuss rural hospital issues with Rogers at recent meeting
August 23
11:18 2020

By Tony Pilkington

Dr. Glenn Rogers, the Republican nominee for Texas House of Representatives District 60, attended Thursday night’s Stephens Memorial Hospital Board meeting for what he called a listen and learn session. He has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election and is expected to take office in January.

Rogers spent close to an hour listening to a wide-range of concerns facing rural hospitals and rural healthcare from board members, hospital and medical staff and administrators. He told the group that he campaigned on three major issues, one of which was rural health care, and that he wanted to meet the board and staff and listen to their concerns about health care in rural hospitals.

“I’m not coming to talk about anything; I’m here to listen,” Rogers said. “For the next six months, I’m just trying to gather as much information as I can around the district about different issues. When I ran, I ran on three major platforms — public education and accessibility to rural health care and economic development. And I’m really serious about that. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can.”

Some of the issues that were discussed with Rogers were the CARES Act, which was created through the Coronavirus Relief Fund; the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the hospital and clinic’s volume of visits; and, the complexities involved with getting reimbursement from managed care companies, Medicare and Medicaid for services provided to patients

The group also discussed ideas on what it would take to get Stephens Memorial Hospital designated as a critical access hospital by the Federal government, which would increase the amount of reimbursement the hospital would receive.

Another issue discussed with Rogers was the the mental health crisis facing rural areas. SMH Chief Nursing Officer Christy Begeman told Rogers that it is very difficult to get access to care for mental health patients and there is a mental health crisis in the local rural community.

“With our self-pay patients, (because of) lack of insurance, nobody will help them or take them,” Begeman said. “We have the hardest time getting any of them help where they need to be, in a facility or anything. There’s a shortage of options to get them in some type of facility for help if they don’t have insurance.”

Dr. Kelli Windsor told Rogers that one of the biggest problems with Medicare is the required prior authorization to obtain the reimbursement. She said it’s difficult to get the right medicines and treatment for a patient because of the amount of paperwork required for prior approval.

Buddy Whiddon, interim Chief Financial Officer for Stephens Memorial Hospital, told Rogers that SMH has an important economic impact the local economy, employing 130 people with payroll of around $400,000 per month.

Rogers is also scheduled to talk to the Stephens County Commissioners Court at their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 26, in the Stephens County Courthouse.

Rapid COVID-19 test now available

During her Chief Nursing Report, Begeman told board members they were in the final stage of having a rapid COVID-19 test and hoped to have it available at the hospital and clinic starting Monday, Aug. 24.

On Friday, Chris Curtis, Director of Business Development for SMH, sent out an email saying the tests are now available at the hospital and clinic. He said the cost of the test is completely covered by most insurance companies, and for a person without insurance, the test will cost $150.

If someone is not able to afford the test, Curtis said, they can fill out patient assistance paperwork to see if they qualify for assistance. Applications are available at the front desk of the hospital.

EMTs and Paramedics

Board members also approved a Memorandum of Understanding with American Medical Response (AMR), the company that provides emergency ambulance service for Stephens County, to allow AMR providers, in rare and emergent circumstances, to assist at the hospital and to perform basic and advanced level skills in accordance with the EMS scope of practice for the State of Texas.

For example, AMR’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics could assist with procedures like application of a cervical collar, bag valve mask ventilation, and bandaging or endotracheal intubation. All the procedures would require the delegation and direct supervision of a licensed physician as required by Texas Law.

According the memorandum, SMH would ensure that all of AMR’s EMTs assisting under the memorandum are separately credentialed by the hospital and are permitted within the hospital’s scope to provide services under their hospital credential.

New HVAC system

Board members also voted to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for the operating room in the hospital. Replacing the HVAC system in the operating room will make it usable for certain types of surgeries to be performed locally. Operations such as simple orthopedic surgery could be performed in the area once the HVAC system is replaced, according to Doug Smith, interim CEO.

Other business

Board members also voted to approve an interlocal agreement between the Stephens Memorial Hospital District, City of Breckenridge and Stephens County for the Senior Center and senior homebound meals.

2020 Proposed Tax Rate and public hearing

In a meeting on Aug. 11, SMH Board members approved a proposed tax rate of 0.29125. A public meeting to on the proposed rate will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at O.C. Heairren Annex, 1207 E. Williams, behind the Breckenridge Medical Clinic.

Since the proposed tax rate is not greater than the voter approved tax rate of 0.31606, the hospital district is not required to hold an election. However, citizens can express their support or opposition to the proposed tax rate by contacting the members of the hospital district at their offices or by attending a public meeting on Sept. 17.

The amount of tax owed under the proposed rate can be calculated by the following formula: Property tax amount = (tax rate) X (taxable value of your property)/100. For example the taxes on a home valued at $100,000 will be $291.25.

Glenn Rogers speaks with Chris Curtis, director of business development for Stephens Memorial Hospital during the August board meeting of the Stephens Memorial Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, Aug. 20. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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