Hospital requests $500,000 from county

By Lucas Vance lvance@civitasmedia.com

March 5, 2014

WINNSBORO — The Fairfield Memorial Hospital board held a joint meeting with Fairfield County Council last Thursday to discuss a possible to loan to help deter the hospital’s $3 million debt.

FMH CEO Mike Williams asked the county to extend a line of credit because the hospital is in danger of losing vendors and not being able to make payroll payments.

The FMH board requested $500,000 from the county to get through the next 90 days.

A FMH financial spokesman said they are currently dealing with 500 dissatisfied vendors who are “becoming more difficult with each passing day.”

“Our vendors have become our bankers and those relationships have become so strained that unless they see improvements, they’re threatening to stop servicing or supplying us,” he stated.

Williams noted that the hospital is making $300,000 less revenue per month than it was in 2011.

The hospital expects to receive a $400,000 payment by the end of March and still has not received a $382,000 payment from Medicaid, which was anticipated to have arrived three months ago.

“The big check didn’t come,” Williams said.

The hospital has made adjustments to cut spending including the closing the oncology department and laying off 12 employees.

Councilman David Brown expressed serious concern after looking over the hospital’s list of owed vendors.

“I’d have to have a mighty big calculator to add all this up and it’s really starting to scare me,” he stated.

Brown questioned if the hospital is running at 40 percent less revenue, why there hasn’t been 40 percent cost reductions.

“You can’t look at it like that,” Williams responded. “There is a certain amount of staff and expenses that a hospital is going to have around the clock. This is a patient volume issue.”

Williams said he believes the hospital is doing everything it can to cut costs.

The board discussed a possible partnership with a larger hospital, although there were no specific names mentioned.

The board said the biggest benefit to affiliate with a larger hospital was the reduction in labor cost.

Williams acknowledged that the hospital is currently conducting a study to review the opportunities and possibilities of affiliating with another hospital.

According to Williams, the study would be ready by the end of May.

Council Chairman David Ferguson said he was willing to help the hospital, but could not guarantee the $500,00 request would be fulfilled.

“We’re trying to help the hospital while being legal,” he noted. “There are certain rules and regulations when it comes to taxpayers money.”

Interim County Administrator Milton Pope said after the meeting that March 6 would be the soonest council could take any action, because both Ferguson and the Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry would be out of town.

“That would be the first day council could all meet to consider any options we have regarding the funding request,” Pope stated.

Pope was unsure if the funds could be made available for the hospital.

“That’s what I’m going to research and find out, is if we can lawfully do that,” he said.

County council will have a specially called meeting March 6 to discuss the funding request.