Henry County Medical Center Board of Trustees Discusses COVID-19 Vaccinations, Financials, and People During June Meeting

Paris, TN – Chief Executive Officer Lisa Casteel started the June Henry County Medical Center Board of Trustees meeting with a discussion on COVID-19 vaccinations.  At the Tennessee Hospital Association meeting last week, Casteel said much attention was dedicated to the recent employers with mandates for vaccination and a survey of hospitals related to masking and vaccination.  Currently, 94% of TN hospitals restrict visitation and 100% require visitors to wear masks, even if fully vaccinated.  Also, 100% of staff are required to wear masks in patient care areas.

A large number of hospitals, 71%, offer community outreach to increase vaccination uptake outside of the hospital setting.  HCMC actively offers an outreach service and is actively seeking grant funding to continue to offer this to the communities we serve.

HCMC currently has 54% of its employees vaccinated.  This includes all of its organization of approximately 858 employees.

“One of the reasons some people are hesitant to get the vaccine is that they want to wait until the FDA has fully approved the vaccines instead of just approved for emergency use,” said Casteel.  “We are watching the environment around mandatory vaccination and will continue to evaluate what we as an organization will do.  At this time, we do not mandate this vaccine.” We do mandate the flu vaccine, and have for many years. We also require up to date vaccinations upon employment with such diseases to include but not limited to chickenpox, measles, tuberculosis, and small pox.

Pfizer and Moderna have both requested full FDA approval and expected to receive this in the fall.  Statistics indicate that 32% more of the population would become vaccinated once full approval is given.  Henry County is currently at 35.55% who have been vaccinated.

“After today’s discharges, HCMC does not have any COVID-19 patients in house,” said Casteel.  “We have typically been running around two to three patients per day with COVID-19 in the hospital.”

In June, there were two full Medical Staff meetings with approval of several amendments to the Medical Staff By-Laws to include a new classification of residency as we begin our rural residency program at HCMC.

Casteel discussed the upcoming bond request for $4.5 million from the Henry County Commission, but in order to do so, HCMC will need to close the $8 million line of credit that was established during the pandemic.  HCMC opened this prior to knowing stimulus money would be available to the organization and no funds were drawn from the credit.  The Board of Trustees approved the closure of this account.

Casteel also discussed a recent Medicare Beneficiary Report for the 2019 calendar year, showing that our cost per patient was significantly less at HCMC then the National Median Hospital.

“There are two ways to look at this,” said Casteel.  “On one hand it appears we are a low cost provider, but on the other, it shows how we are significantly underpaid for the care we provide.  We have fought for an increase in the wage index to help with this, but we haven’t had much movement.”

Effective July 1, it will become a felony to assault a nurse.  HCMC administration will be meeting with District Attorney Matt Stowe to discuss this new legislation.  There is a mandatory sentence and fine with this new legislation.

Brad Bloemer, HCMC CFO, discussed some major challenges we are facing right now.  Stimulus funds have assisted us the past two years to sustain our operations.  These funds are now ending and will impact us as we move forward to have a break even budget.

“If our May 2021 is any indication, we will not be on track to meet our budget for FY2022,” said Bloemer.  “Without staff, we don’t have the opportunity to grow inpatient or outpatient services.  There is very little room for revenue growth, which means we have to cut expense.”

Bloemer discussed the impact contract labor is having on our organization as well as competition increasing salaries to attract employees.  HCMC is reviewing salaries for competitive increases, and possibly eliminating contract labor.

Year to date we have a profit of $3.8 million, with $3.9 million of that being stimulus money.  The wage index, not expanding Medicaid, and TennCare all have a huge impact on us and create a challenge for us to remain independent.  Administration is working on strategies to improve the financial forecast.

Bad debts for the month were approved for $620,592.61.

Casteel discussed the finalization of our endowment policy for the entire organization as we have finalized a donation from an anonymous donor for programs at HCMC.  This policy will also be approved by the Paris and Henry County Healthcare Foundation.

Bloemer discussed the $4.5 million loan from the county and the terms.  The Board approved this and will write a resolution to the Henry County Commission for approval of this loan.

Pam Ridley, CIO, provided a corporate compliance and IT update at the meeting as well.  She discussed privacy cases, security cases, and breach issues.  All cases have been closed.  We have no critical risks and had a 96% compliance rate.  Ridley also discussed our users in our portals, projects, and overall statistics related to information technology at HCMC.  Ridley also discussed the sunsetting of our EMR and how we move forward with something new in the next couple of years.

The HCMC Volunteer Auxiliary sent two bylaw changes to the Board of Trustees that were approved.

Rachel Carroll, Human Resources Director, provided her report discussing the key open positions at this time as well as the turnover rates for HCMC during 2020 and 2021 as well as HCHC.  HCMC is currently at 23.56% and HCHC is at 28.24%.  Carroll tries to perform exit interviews with terminated staff as they will allow.  She also discussed activities including Healthcare Week, Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Hanging Flower Plant Sale by the Healthcare Foundation.  Eligible partners received up to $2,000 in loyalty bonuses in June and we increased our minimum wage to $10 an hour.  HCMC Department Director of the Quarter was Cynthia Stigall, Home Health and Hospice.

To learn more about the growth at Henry County Medical Center, go to our website at www.hcmc-tn.org and read about all the services we offer to care for our community.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be July 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the Henry County Medical Center Board Room, as long as COVID-19 statistics trends downward.

About Henry County Medical Center

Located in Paris, TN, Henry County Medical Center is a progressive, integrated healthcare organization committed to serving the healthcare needs of Henry County and the adjoining region. Including a 142-bed hospital and 7 other facilities, the medical center provides a variety of outpatient services, as well as inpatient care. Henry County Medical Center is a county-owned and operated nonprofit institution. For more information: www.hcmc-tn.org.