MOUNT GILEAD — In a lively exchange of ideas at a special meeting, Morrow County Hospital (MCH) board members and County Commissioners discussed options for the future of Morrow County Hospital.
MCH Board President, Pat Drouhard opened the March 11 meeting on a positive note saying, “We are working to do what is right.”
He described the 18 months of research and the process of negotiations the MCH Board has worked through. There has been an analysis and audit of the hospital’s financial situation now and what is anticipated in the next few years.
The MCH Board also hired the national firm, ECG Management Consultants, to request proposals from several hospital systems in Ohio. Health systems that were sent a Request for Proposal were: Cleveland Clinic, Ohio Health, OSU, Cincinnati Tri-Health, Avita and Blanchard Valley.
The agreement involves three main points:
• The sale of physicians practices now currently employed by Morrow County Hospital that will provide about $2 million to the hospital.
• The board is committed to keeping the hospital open as long as possible.
• If it isn’t feasible to keep the hospital open, Ohio Health has a commitment to build a new health care facility to meet the needs of the county.
Drouhard said the final agreement should be provided by Ohio Health soon and he and the board plan to have a public hearing and review by the commissioners before the agreement is accepted and signed by the board.
“I want to hear any criticisms of the agreement before it is signed,” Drouhard said.
Commissioner Tom Whiston asked why Knox County Hospital had not been included in the request for proposals. Board members and their attorney, Jon Christensen, didn’t know why. Whiston said asking a neighboring hospital would seem to make more sense than a Cleveland or Cincinnati health system.
Whiston expressed frustration that the hospital board had not included commissioners earlier in their work of finding a health system for the future. Since it is a county hospital with a countywide levy, Whiston said it was unfortunate that commissioners weren’t involved from the beginning.
The current 2.5-mill, countywide hospital levy brings in $1,450,095 annually according to Morrow County Auditor Pat Davies.
“How can we make an informed decision when reviewing the agreement, if we don’t have information?” Whiston asked.
Whiston also asked about a comparison with Pickaway County and the agreement they made with Berger and Ohio Health. MCH board member, Brad Wood said they are not comparable since they are a much larger hospital with a much bigger staff in a larger population.
Attorney for the commissioners, Kris Dawley, asked if the ECG Communications could be made available to the commissioners with any trade secrets redacted. Christensen answered affirmatively if the hospital CEO was willing.
Commissioner Warren Davis asked what the basis is for the elimination of services such as the Coumadin Clinic. Dr. Grant Galbraith said it had been explained before that patients were able to have the same service at their physician’s office or at hospitals and clinics in surrounding counties.
Prosecutor Charles Howland asked if recommendations to terminate services were made primarily on an economic and financial basis. Board members said yes, that is one reason another is close availability of the service elsewhere.
Commissioner Burgess Castle questioned why MCH would stay with Ohio Health when the hospital had experienced losses for 25 years. Castle stressed that it is the goal of the commissioners to work with the hospital board to have the best outcome for the county.
MCH Board Member D. Vincent Trago, MD, said the board had also looked at doubling the amount of the hospital levy. But that wouldn’t fix their financial shortfall, which is now $2.5 million annually.
MCH board member and former county commissioner Olen Jackson said the board knew it had to make major changes two and a half years ago when he became a board member. He said they decided to bring on ECG when they realized they didn’t have the expertise to do all the research needed.
“We did look at other options such as hiring a CEO or administrator,” said Jackson, who added that it is time to move on with present negotiations. “We thought this meeting was going to be about the future of health care in Morrow County, not what was done in the past.”
Patti Ray commented at the end of the meeting, “I believe it is clear the MCH board has done their due diligence on behalf of the citizens of Morrow County. And I believe Ohio Health has good intentions in working with the hospital.”