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by Brenda Grose
News of Ringgold County Hospital’s receipt of their first COVID-19 vaccine shipments, approval of an employee appreciation payment to be paid with December 30 paychecks and updates on the current construction project as it moves forward highlighted discussion at the regular monthly RCH board of trustees meeting held Monday, December 21.
The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines were received on Monday, December 21 and an additional 100 doses on Tuesday, December 22. A lunch and learn session led by chief of staff, Dr. Bruce Ricker was provided for employees on December 16. Vaccine distribution to RCH employees began with the second receipt of doses on December 22. The vaccinations were given in groups of 10 every 15 minutes. Monday, December 28, 40 more employees were given the vaccine and additional employees who choose to be vaccinated will also be given the vaccine in groups of 10 to eliminate waste of opened vials. The hospital will continue to receive weekly shipments for what is being called Phase 1a. With a second dose, shipments and distribution will move into Phase 1b-1c. Ricker reported most side effects are being seen with the second dose. He cited common effects such as arm soreness (site of injection) and fatigue. Ricker cautioned those who have had reactions to previous vaccines should defer on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. To date only 80 employees have signed up for the vaccine; however, Ricker stated he believes this is the best option available at this time.
Gordon Winkler, RCH administrator, reported on the toll being taken on health care workers during the continued situation dealing with COVID-19.
Winkler stated, “The bad news is everyone still feels like we are swimming upstream. The good news is Ringgold County Hospital has some really strong swimmers.”
He commented on the fatigue being felt by staff and complimented staff on their ability to still take exceptional care of patients.
Winkler announced more good news when he presented to the board an employee appreciation payment proposal related to working during the COVID-19 19 crisis and being put together by Winkler and Missy Walter, CFO.
Specifics for the payments are that employees must still be an employee on December 30 and payment amounts will be based on hours worked from March 8 to November 28 of this year. Contracted staff such as IT could be considered for the payment. The proposal was unanimously approved and will be paid out with the December 30 payroll.
Winkler continued his report with an update on the construction project. The southwest wall is poured and crews are finishing up with the rest of the walls. The column pads are poured, light pole footings are filled and protection has been put around the footings. Light poles will be up and digging for plumbing will all be in process the week of December 28. Work is still being done on the finance end. There is some disparity between USDA and Great Western Bank (GWB) in regard to certain monies. USDA considers the stimulus and Cares Act program monies as liabilities and GWB does not. Cris Kuhns, RCH bond attorney, is working with GWB attorney Patricia Scallon on the loan agreement, lender certification and closing documents. Closing date for these documents is anticipated in January 2021.
Susan Freed at the Davis Brown Law Firm has referred RCH to Sean Raisch in the firm’s real estate division to look at putting together a pharmacy lease. Timing of the 340B application is also being considered as applications are reviewed quarterly. RCH looks to apply in January for April approval.
Walter reviewed the November financial report stating gross patient revenue finished the month ahead of budget by $160,000 for the month. Salaries, wages and benefits were all under budget due to health insurance costs decreasing slightly with reimbursements received on claims going over the stop loss amount. Contract labor was over budget due to additional staffing needs in the lab and physical therapy departments. Most other expense lines were reported under budget with the exception of supplies and drugs. More expense than anticipated from cancer treatments caused drugs to exceed the budgeted amount. The month was settled with a $100,834 loss and year to date net loss sits at $396,733. Walters also added she is working on the PPP (payment protection program) application for loan forgiveness that was released at the end of October. Walters indicated the approval for forgiveness of these funds has been fairly quick.
Miscellaneous items reported included:
• The budget process for Fiscal Year 2022 has been tentatively set with the Budget Committee for Thursday, February 11, 2021 and Monday, February 15, 2021, if needed. Public posting of the meeting will be in the Record News February 25, 2021 and the tentatively set Budget Hearing will be held March 8, 2021. Kathi Brady, Eddie Daily and Vicki Sickels will serve on the committee.
• A very successful second pain clinic was held last week. Twelve patients were seen, several procedures were done along with physical therapy referrals. Dates for the next clinics will be January 8, 29 and February 26.
• Additional grants have been received. Replacement equipment from Avera for our eEmergency System has been purchased.The present equipment will reach end of life October, 2021. Cross MHDS provided $10,000 in grant money for expenses related to Senior Life staff when RCH was unable to do billing last spring. The funds are through the Cares Act and must have a mental health or disability services component to qualify.
• A referral bonus policy has been put in place. Employees receive $1000 for referral of a Registered Nurse who accepts work at RCH.
• Sign on bonuses are also being offered for LPNs and RNs. It is paid one third on their first check, the second third on the anniversary check of completion of one year and the final third is given at the end of their second year of employment.
• The current PTO buyback policy is being restructured to accommodate staff who are working a lot of hours and are unable to take time off. Susan Freed, legal advisor from Davis Brown has indicated some of the stimulus funds received would be allowable for this use.