The Commission has met twice in the past week; May 18th for our regular May meeting, and last night, May 26th for a special meeting for hospital closure updates. Here is an update of the county business discussions:
The Commission has voted to engage Geoffrey Lindley with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell in Jackson as the official county attorney. Mr. Lindley is a 2001 graduate of University of Tennessee Law School and comes to us with high recommendations. He is the recipient of several honors including being named as a Rising Star for Employment Litigation Defense, by the Law & Politics Mid-South Super Lawyers in 2009. He is also the author of numerous papers and publications in the legal field. Lindley specializes in employment law litigation (representing employers only), municipal law and government tort liability, civil rights litigation, and workers’ compensation.
The Campground has been cleaned up and was ready for campers this past weekend for the Memorial Day Holiday. The old trailer, which has been used as an office/residence onsite, has sustained mold and other damage and is unsafe for use. The commission voted to remove and dispose of the trailer. The current park managers are temporarily using their own camper and are staying onsite. We discussed options for replacement of an office facility or possible camp store, but no decision was made.
There were four budget amendments presented, none called for additional money. These changes were clerical adjustments from one budget line to another in order to properly document expenses. They include:
1. Sanitation Management – clerical adjustment made from County General Fund for purchase of new backhoe replacing old one. This was approved, purchased and has been in use for several months. Money from the landfill settlement was used to cover this purchase. Total - $97,702.40
2. Sheriff Department – clerical adjustments within department line items made to reflect incoming revenue and receipts of insurance reimbursements. Total - $9,574.02
3. Highway Department – clerical adjustments made for insurance payments, etc. Total - $ 2,375.00
4. Industrial Development – clerical adjustment for annual funding from General Fund to Decatur County Chamber of Commerce for FY2019-2020. Total - $32,000.00
The Commission’s hospital committee has assumed the lead in closure procedures. Commissioners on the committee are: Comm. Kevin Cagle, Comm. Anthony Alexander, Comm. Joe Keeton. They have worked diligently on the many obligatory closure procedures, proper disposal of perishable items, etc. This commissioner appreciates the hard work of my colleagues and thank them for their dedication in trying to resolve the chaos found at the hospital. What they have reported has been concerning.
There was no comprehensive list of assets (current or long-term) available for identification of county owned equipment. The Commissioners have been working to properly document all assets.
Outstanding bills have been left unpaid primarily since 2017 up to the closure and are currently estimated at $2,933,606.17. The Committee is working to identify and compile a complete list of debt.
Proper insurance submissions or patient billings have not been kept current. These receivables are estimated to be approximately $3.6 Million, however we are told that actual collection from insurance is only estimated at 20% or $720,000.
BlueCross/BlueShield has informed the hospital that they have identified $2.8 Million in fraudulent or improper billing. They have already recouped $1.6 Million and are still owed $1.2 Million.
This is one of the companies used that provides the software and service to facilitate medical billing. DCGH has an outstanding balance listed as $437,364.68.
Due to this enormous debt, CPSI cut off services earlier this year until the hospital could make a payment on the bill. The commission voted to pay $90,000 in order to allow the service to be turned back on so that billing could continue. Unfortunately, the service was abruptly and prematurely cancelled by Dr. Beau Braden upon his being named as CEO by the Hospital Board. This has created a stalemate in billing operations again.
The Hospital Committee has spoken with CPSI to work out terms for continued services throughout the wind-down of the facility. The Commission voted to enter into an agreement with CPSI to continue their services with CPSI retaining 50% of the billings collected until their outstanding balance is paid in full. After that, money collected from insurers will revert to the contracted amount with DCGH.
This agreement with CPSI also includes cloud storage services for record maintenance for a monthly fee of $3,500. The Commission agreed to this as we are required by law to store and maintain these records; however, we have agreed that we will not sign a long-term storage agreement in case an alternative is presented.
The Mayor has informed us that all of the unpaid retirement funding (both employee contributions and hospital match) has been paid into the fund. The county’s portion amounted to $62,000.
Because the fund was not administered properly and funding went unpaid, employees lost interest income from the investment. Being an asset of the county, the hospital is obligated for these amounts and the Commission has voted to fund these losses. The investment company (Principal) is working on calculating those totals.
PTO, or paid time off, is a credit earned by employees as they worked which could be used as vacation days or paid time off. These amounts have been calculated and are in the process of being forwarded to the employees.
Supplemental Insurance – The Mayor informs us that reimbursement for these policies is being assessed and will need payment.
Unemployment Benefits – Some employees have reported issues with benefits. Again, the Mayor tells us that he is talking to the State for resolution.
Hospital payroll taxes were not paid for many months and have accrued to $818,213.50 plus penalties and fines. At the recommendation of the county attorney, the Commission voted to hire Lance Einstein, an attorney and tax expert to negotiate terms for repayment in hopes of mitigating the total amount of damages.
The county attorney informs us that a hearing for summary judgement will be held in this case on June 5th in Carroll County Courthouse. If a judgement is not given, the case is scheduled for July 14-17th in Decatur County.
From this day forward, we must assess our situation with a critical eye and begin planning our future with solid, calculated decisions.
This Commissioner has discussed with my Commission colleagues, business people and other key people in our area for the need of a comprehensive strategic plan to address the county’s future. We all agree that now is the time to put those ideas forward and develop a wide-ranging concept as a map to our future.
Where does this begin? With Emergency Medical Care. It is the most essential aspect in building or, in our case, re-building, a community.
The loss of our old hospital is sad and frightening right now. However, its closure also gives us an opportunity to start over. We now have a chance to re-think our old models and seek more effective answers.
We are working to find a new path that best suits our needs and our limited financial resources. But we cannot again jump into an unknown situation. It is time to put into action a stable plan that will secure our future.
No one organization or person can build a community, it takes the effort of the entire group. This is why it is so important to keep you – the people – updated on the details of where we have been, what we are facing and what our options are moving forward.
We cannot proceed forward with success if we do not first recognize our weaknesses, our mistakes of the past, and our current deficits. What have we done wrong? What have we done right? What types of activities does our community excel in? What could we have done better? What assets or talents do we have that are not fully utilized?
To achieve our goal of success, we must define what that goal needs to be. What are we working toward? Where do we expect to be in a year, or 5 years or 10 years?
Perhaps, the critical question is, Why Do We Want To Succeed? Why should we care if we grow or wither away? Why should it be important to you and your family? Why should you be involved?
I think the answer to these last questions is simple, Family.
Our families, our children, our parents, our grandchildren. We should want to create a county that is able to provide and sustain our people. We should want more than to “get by;” we should strive to give our folks a better tomorrow, higher paying jobs, better services, more options.
We should want to create a community where our children and grandchildren want to stay and raise their families.
If we have learned anything in the past year, it is that the world is changing faster than we once thought. We have also learned that, even in Decatur County, we live in a global community and are connected with each another. Because of these changes, we now have to adapt and adjust our approaches to better fit the situation.
Decatur County, WE can do this. Together, we have always been a successful team! Our grandparents and great-grandparents probably had this same conversation after the World Wars. They overcame difficulties and so can we.