Hospital Authority hears updates

Published 6:16 am Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Hospital Authority members heard from CEO Jim Peak at their meeting on Tuesday that among the proposed state constitutional amendments on the November ballot is one that would increase auto tag fees by $10 per year.

Peak said funds collected from the increase would go to the Trauma Commission to improve the trauma care network in Georgia.

The proposed constitutional amendment is supported by the Georgia Hospital Association, the Alliance of Community Hospitals and has long been a goal of the Trauma Commission for Georgia. Peak said getting this amendment on the ballot is the closest it has come to being a reality.

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He advised there are only four recognized class three trauma centers in the whole state of Georgia and none south of Macon.

“Patients requiring trauma care in South Georgia have to go elsewhere. We are not qualified to keep them and most of ours go to Tallahassee,” he said. “It is just as important to rural areas like ours, as it is for those in or near large cities, such as Atlanta.”

Peak went on to comment that although there have been no location discussions with major hospitals in this area, he believed a logical location for such a center would be Albany, Valdosta or even Thomasville.

Peak said it is his hope that speakers will be coming into the area to talk with civic and service organizations to educate the public on the proposed amendment and how passage would improve the state system as well as trauma care for Decatur County residents.

Emergency Department report

Cynthia Vickers, assistant administration for nursing services, gave an update on the emergency department operations.

In March 2008, the hospital began a system to monitor the overall patient wait time in the emergency department for urgent and non-urgent patient care.

At that time goals were set to have an average “through-put” time of three hours for urgent care and two hours for non-urgent care. The rationale being that urgent care would require additional laboratory testing, X-rays, etc.

Up until March 2009, the hospital monitored and tracked the time involved for 100 percent of the patients seen daily in the ED. This past year through March 2010, they have only done random monitoring.

Vickers said for that period the average total time for urgent care was three hours, 9 minutes, while the overall average for non-urgent was two hours and 35 minutes.

Vickers indicated the hospital has greatly improved in a consistent manner the time involved in ED care over the last two years. She reports complaints have been drastically reduced and patient satisfaction has increased.

Capital equipment purchases approved

In other business, the board approved two capital equipment purchases.

The first was for licensing, implementation and service for MediTech’s emergency department management software at a five-year cost of $141,668, excluding hardware. A down payment of $10,879 is due upon approval of the purchase.

The hospital is facing mandated compliance with the so-called “Hi-Tech” laws. Hi-Tech is an acronym for Hospital Information Technology and the laws govern the movement of data around the nation. This oversight includes claims made to Medicare/Medicaid and private insurance, as well as continuity of care in the event a patient is transferred to another facility. Ultimately Hi-Tech is in compliance with the 2004 Executive Order 13335 that creates a National Health Information Network.

In order to be in compliance with the Hi-Tech laws, patient care data must be in digital format. The current ED system is paper-based and Memorial Hospital and Manor face penalties in the form of reduced reimbursements if they do not comply. Scanning paper documents is specifically prohibited.

The second purchase approved was for a MediTech VPN implementation and support system at a cost of $14,610.45. Currently, MediTech uses a telecom connection between Boston and the hospital to deliver software updates and patches.

The hospital currently pays AT&T for two copper wire circuits and reimburses MediTech for what the telephone company charges them per call long distance fee when support is required. The newly purchased system will replace the obsolete technology with one that is faster, as well as logging which user connects to the system and at what time. This will comply with the auditing requirements of the new Hi-Tech laws to protect patient privacy.

Finance Committee Chair Glennie Bench reported that April began the new fiscal year and the hospital is already reporting a net income loss of $511,434 for the year. This is compared to a net income loss of $102,567 last year. Bench indicated this was due in part to revenue being down for a variety of reasons. However, she said expenses were in line and the hospital was in a better cash position that it was last year.