At the Eastern Plumas Hospital board meeting Thursday, June 27, the sound of perseverance resounded in the voices of the board members and directors. With the harsh cuts from California the talk on the table was the hospital budget.
“This is a year of transition. This is a year of very hard state cuts,” said Chief Financial Officer Jeri Nelson. “There is a plan. We know this is hard.”
Board member Gail McGrath said, “It’s just a difficult time. I think it’s very, very hard keeping attitudes in check.”
According to Nelson, the hospital is preparing to absorb the oncoming cuts to MediCal from the state. Officials said they have already cut staff, lowered salaries and postponed projects.
Hospital CEO Tom Hayes gave an update on the would-be cuts to the distinct-part skilled nursing facility. He said that two of the three bills endorsed by the hospital did not make it through to the Senate.
Now the last bill still alive is Assembly Bill 900, which would halt the cuts from MediCal reimbursements and prevent the state from demanding any retroactive payments from health care services.
Hayes also said several additional lawsuits have been filed against the proposed cuts including one at the Supreme Court.
The frontier status of the hospital could also be another lifesaver against the looming cuts. The Department of Health Care Services inaccurately labeled Plumas and Sierra counties as rural counties in its access study to verify that the cuts would not prevent anyone from still having access to nearby health care.
However, because Plumas and Sierra counties are so remote, they cannot be considered rural, and there would not be adequate access to health care if the hospital closed down as a result of the cuts.
After this was brought to the attention of the DHCS acting division chief of the fee-for-service rates development division, John Mendoza, he asked the hospital to submit an application for an exemption.
The hospital submitted the application in early April and, according to Hayes, DHCS still has not made a decision.
According to Hayes, Mendoza said he appreciated the information and made a recommendation “up.” But Hayes said he was unclear as to what that meant, and who was next in the decision-making process.
“It’s not positive news but it’s not bad,” said Hayes.
At the meeting, the board also discussed the option of extending Hayes’ contract. According to director Larry Fites his contract will be expiring in January 2014. Fites said if they wanted to renew his contract the proper time to do it would be six months before, and the extension can be anything up to four years.
“It helps to have a good leadership team, said board member Janie McBride. “I’m happy to have you stay.”
The contract won’t be officially up for discussion until the next meeting, July 25.
“We can do this,” said McGrath. “It’s very important at this point that the public not pull away from us because they think we can’t do it. We need them to stay.”
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