By Lindsey Temple
News Star Reporter
The staff at Pauls Valley General Hospital has been no stranger to hardships and unsteady futures in the last several years but in a public meeting held last Tuesday night a board room full of physicians, nurses, billers, support staff and concerned citizens got a chance to express their concerns regarding their unforeseen futures with the rural hospital and were shown a possible way out of the struggle.
The Pauls Valley Hospital Authority addressed the crowded room of hospital employees and concerned citizens and sympathized with their struggle before introducing a new plan and possible partnership with New Light Health Care to save the hospital.
“I’m sick and tired of waking up in the middle of the night worried about this hospital and I’m sure you are too. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Thank you guys for staying with us and standing by the hospital,” said PV Mayor Gary Alfred.
Alfred then introduced Todd Biederman President and CEO of New Light Healthcare, and hospital management and consulting company based out of Austin, TX.
According to the company’s website they are focused on serving the unique needs of critical access hospitals in rural and small community hospitals and was founded to be of service to rural communities throughout the U.S.
Hospitals that have worked with New Light include Throckmorton County Memorial Hospital, Red River Regional, Cimarron Memorial Hospital, Memorial Hospital of Texas, Coon Memorial Hospital and Liberty Dayton Regional Medical Center among others.
In 2013 the company was named one of the top 100 healthcare companies to watch by Master of Health Administration Programs.
Biederman explained to the crowd some of the company’s achievements in hospital management.
“We have worked with several hospitals in Oklahoma and Texas after three and a half years we had a successful hospital turn around in Boise City where when we started the hospital had only $10,000 in the bank. We have worked in Beaver, Oklahoma, Atoka, Oklahoma; we helped Vinita’s hospital with their billing and we are expanding into Colorado and New Mexico,” explained Biederman.
Biederman also explained that New Light is prepared to bring in their partner company that deals primarily in billing, as billing has been an area of concern for PVGH.
PVGH’s billing department lost their electronic billing system in July of this year and has since been filing each claim by hand.
According to Chad Kutmus, bankruptcy attorney for PVGH, as of September, accounts receivable began falling behind and because of that PVGH has millions of dollars that is yet to be collected causing the hospital to have to dip into the available line of credit they hold with Pauls Valley Nation Bank.
“We should be seeing that money start coming in within the next week or so,” said Kutmus.
“We have proposed a three year agreement to Pauls Valley General Hospital, if the hospital sells or is leased during that time the agreement can be terminated,” added Beiderman.
“If your Hospital Authority approves this proposal we can be here tomorrow morning to begin working with all of you,” said Lee Hughes, New Light’s Regional Vice President.
On a different note, Kutmus also added that in September, just short of the two year mark, SSM Oklahoma or St. Anthony’s Health System filed in bankruptcy court to terminate their agreement with PVGH.
Bridgette Crosby who took over as PVGH’s CEO as part of SSM’s management agreement will be leaving PVGH as well.
“I’m here for whatever you guys need, I’ll be here for the transition,” said Crosby.
The Hospital Authority proceeded to unanimously approve the 3 year agreement with New Light but recognized that it will not yet be smooth sailing for PVGH.
“It’s going to be an uphill climb and we are going to do it. No more backing down and no more excuses, everyone has got to be on board. We have really good ideas to save our surgical center and we have got to change the public opinion of the hospital, if I see another negative thing on Facebook about this hospital it won’t be good. The hospital is worth keep and we’re committed,” said Alfred.
Alfred went on to address the topic that seemed to be on everyone’s mind.
“We are still going to look at the sales tax,” said Alfred.
“If you guys are going to propose a sales tax you have to educate the public and keep the community informed. You need massive promotion with no hidden agendas or else it will not pass,” expressed an audience member.
“I agree,” said Alfred.
“Another good thing about this partnership is that we will be able to project the hospitals future with and without the sales tax further educating the public on the needs of the sales tax,” said Biederman.
Many in the crowd expressed concerns from employment to sales tax to being overworked during the last several months.
“It’s a new day in Pauls Valley. We have the ability to change things and we will do just that,” said Kutmus.
When asked about the agreement with Mercy Health Systems which was discussed by the Authority in September, Alfred answered very simply by saying,” Mercy cannot give us what we need at this time.”
“We plan to focus on growing revenue. We will know much more once we take a look at the financials but you have to grow yourself out of trouble,” explained Beiderman.
“This certainly points us in the right direction, there are still hurdles we have to clear but we have a clear direction now, a direction that allows us to keep our hospital open and that is our goal,” James Frizell PV City Manager told the News Star.
The agreement between the parties is still being finalized but is set to be completed in the next few days at which point New Light Health Care will take over management of PVGH.