MOUNT GILEAD – At their regular meeting Monday, the Board of Morrow County Commissioners heard from Donna Carver, representing the Morrow County Health Initiative Citizens’ Advisory Group. She encouraged the board of commissioners to explore the 501c3 option for the hospital.
The commissioners, at least in part, agreed they were open to the nonprofit option. Some disagreement ensued with other points made in a statement she read.
Members of the public in attendance at the meeting included Cheryl Sumner, Nick Gerasimof, Teresa Fox, Donna Carver, Sarah Robson, Connie Sharrock, Pam Wise, Sarah Cleveland (w/children), Morrow County Development Director Andy Ware, Julie Wick and Mike Goff.
Carver introduced herself and read a statement representing concerns of the Citizens’ Advisory Group.
“I am a retired Licensed Practical Nurse of over 35 years. During my career I have worked in a variety of settings including, hospitals, nursing homes, private duty, clinics and physicians’ offices. When working for physicians, my duties included billing which has been helpful to me in understanding medical costs versus reimbursement and governmental requirements….I am currently a member of Mount Gilead Village Council which is a nonpartisan elected position,” she said.
Carver noted she is “invested in the continued success and operation of our local hospital invested in the continued success and operation of our local hospital. It is also the reason that I applied for and was appointed as a member of the Morrow County Health Initiative Citizens’ Advisory Group.”
The Citizens’ Advisory Group recommendations included to “consider converting the hospital to a 501c3 organizational structure” and to “keep as much local control as possible.”
Carver’s stated Dr. Vincent Trago had addressed the commissioners at the previous meeting and in agreement with Dr. Trago, said, “I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Trago’s recommendation and will reiterate that this option relieves the commissioners of owning a building they do not want and gets you out of the healthcare business just like you have asked. It eliminates the current tax levy which has been a point of contention. Most importantly, it allows for local control by a local board to oversee operations and the local board can choose who assists with the management of the facility.”
At the close of her statement, Commissioner Tom Whiston disagreed with the statement that the county no longer wants to own a hospital. Carver said she would produce evidence the statement has been made in public discourse.
In her statement Carver also said an RFP is not an appropriate resolution to the solution for management of the Morrow County hospital. She stated the Citizens Advisory Group conducted surveys of Morrow County residents and hospital employees and both surveys revealed that neither the community nor the employees of the hospital were supportive of a new RFP process.
She said “the RFP process that was conducted by the previous Morrow County Hospital Board by a highly respected medical management group. It is apparent that those entities that were contacted, and there were a number of them, have no interest in the Morrow County Hospital for various reasons. Those same reasons continue to exist today. In this post Covid climate, a majority of hospitals have even less reasons than before to do so.”
Carver said claims that “the previous RFP process conducted was flawed are unfounded.” She requested documentation proving any wrong-doing or impropriety originating as a result of the previous RFP. She said the “only documentation of a ‘perception’ of conflict came from an email from Jerome Morasko the CEO of Avita in an email to Commissioner Tom Whiston, former Commissioner Warren Davis and Former Commissioner Burgess Castle dated May 20, 2019.
“It would appear from the public records that I have reviewed that the then commissioners were included and supportive of ECG [Management Consultant] and the entire RFP process until receiving this email from Mr. Morasko that makes this unproven claim and was made by an entity with an interest in our hospital who did not get awarded the contract, even after Avita was permitted to make a second ‘sales pitch.’”
She further expressed concern that no one with a medical background serves on the current hospital board and she finds that troubling from the perspective of her past experiences.
“I understand the Ethics committee has issued their finding that neither an employee of OhioHealth nor an employee of the hospital could serve on the board. I do know that two and possibly three people who applied do not, nor have ever worked for either OhioHealth or the Morrow County Hospital and they would have been able to fill the position,” she added.
Carver also read in her statement, “The reality is we cannot ‘move forward,’ as the commissioners say they would like “because the past keeps being put on public display by County Economic Development Director Andy Ware.”
She explained Ware addressed the advisory group and presented, what she described as “past information that, at best, he misunderstood or misinterpreted or possibly was his perception of what he read, but his comments were full of unfounded allegations. He repeated information that had been printed in newspaper reports and letters to the editor as well as the past legal proceedings.”
To the suggestion the hospital process needed to move forward, Whiston responded.
“I think the commissioners are moving forward. We have the majority opinion provided by the committee. I think both the hospital board and the commissioners, and the RFP committee are moving forward, so we will continue with that process,” Whiston said.
“Are you going to stop the misinformation being spread in the newspaper,” Carver asked, “because that’s not moving forward.”
Whiston said a timeline has been created to clarify some of the misunderstanding. Carver persisted in stating misinformation has been circulated.
“I’m not claiming that it was anything nefarious,” she said, What I’m claiming is that when you’re not used to hospital, the way hospitals are run and governmental relations of those hospitals: Medicare, Medicaid, Passport, all those different requirements, and in reading those documents, it is easy to misunderstand information being presented.”
She said, as an example, “In the management agreement, if the hospital were to close, which they have no control over—the hospital is run by the hospital board appointed by the commissioners and the hospital appointing authority. If, for whatever reason, the hospital board closed the hospital, they were committed to building another facility, an outpatient facility so the doctors that currently work at the hospital could still treat patients within the county.
“They never said they wanted to close the hospital, but that’s what’s been put out to the community; and that’s what the community has perceived—that Ohio Health wants to close our hospital. That’s not accurate.”
“All I hear is that the commissioners want to close the hospital, and that’s not accurate either,” said Abraham. He added, “The time that we live in, the healthcare is complicated. So, is it profitable, or is it good for the county to be involved with healthcare now? In my opinion, ‘no.’ I’m open to the 501c3…right now the hospital board and the commissioners are working together.”
“I do appreciate your efforts on that,” replied Carver. “Please do not misunderstand what I’m trying to convey to you. I do appreciate that you are taking those steps, but when this stuff gets out to the public, we have to address it. We can’t just let those go as blanket statements of fact.
“This has been a six-year, ongoing roller coaster,” Carver added. “I would think that as commissioners you would want to appoint someone who has medical background, who understands how hospitals operate; and let me emphasize that hospitals are not a money-making venture… What you want is your hospital to provide a health service to your community and be able to pay their bills, pay their employees and still continue to provide those services at a high level of quality of care. That’s what we all want.”
“Right, and to do that, they have to have excess revenue over expenses, otherwise they will go out of business,” stated Whiston.
“I wholeheartedly agree with you. And looking at the most recent audit of the Morrow County Hospital, they have absolutely no debt. They have over 300 days cash on hand, which means if they don’t bring in another dollar today, for any reason, they provide the same level of services for over 300 days,” said Carver.
“All we’re looking for,” Commissioner Seigfried concluded, “is let’s go through this RFP process, including the 501c3.”