Hospital ready for changeover

Allen County Regional Hospital wraps up business before Saint Luke's takes over the reins next week.

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June 24, 2020 - 10:04 AM

Allen County Regional Hospital’s new administrator, Elmore Patterson, far left, meets with the Board of Trustees Tuesday night at their final meeting before a lease with Saint Luke’s Health System starts July 1. Also pictured, is Steve Schieber, center, Chief Executive Officer for Saint Luke’s rural hospitals, and Jeff Johnson, an ACRH trustee. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

By this time next week, Allen County Regional Hospital will be under the control of the Saint Luke’s Health System.

The next few days are going to wrap up the transition, culminating in a flurry of activity with “an army” of Saint Luke’s staff converging on Iola June 30 to swap old computers for new and flip the switch at midnight to convert ACRH’s systems.

Saint Luke’s will lease the hospital building from the county, and will be responsible for providing all medical services. Hospital employees have been hired as Saint Luke’s employees.

The ACRH Board of Trustees met for their final time Tuesday night to discuss a variety of housekeeping issues related to the transition, and met the new administrator, Elmore Patterson, who officially takes over July 1.

The Board of Trustees now becomes a facilities board, with the same group of county-appointed members. Their role is to oversee the hospital building and other county-owned facilities. 

A separate board, called an operations board, will take over most of the responsibilities previously under the Trustees’ purview. That board includes three Saint Luke’s officials and five Allen County residents: Loren Korte, John Brocker, Terry Sparks, Mary Kay Heard and Alan Weber. Korte, Brocker and Sparks are also members of the Trustees board.

PATTERSON, who previously served as a healthcare administrator in Alabama, met with the board members and hospital staff Tuesday. He has spent the past eight weeks training in the Saint Luke’s system.

Elmore Patterson

“I’m glad to be here. This is a golden opportunity,” Patterson told the trustees. “It was good meeting people. Everyone is excited. I know these are troubled times with COVID-19 but we’re going to work through it. Regardless of what name is on the sign, we have a commitment to this community and we’re going to stay committed to this community by providing high quality healthcare.” 

Patterson showed his sense of humor as the trustees updated him on the status of a few ongoing projects, including a problem with showers that have plagued the building since it opened in 2013. A settlement with the contractors has provided money for repairs, but the trustees wanted to wait to seek guidance from Saint Luke’s before they fixed the problem.

“Does Elmore know about our shower project?” Trustee Jim Gilpin asked.

“Our showers leak,” Loren Korte explained. “We were just waiting for you to come on board to fix it.”

“Oh, I can stop a leak,” Patterson joked.

The board also was waiting until after the transition to remodel the hospital’s pharmacy, a project expected to cost about $115,000. Like the showers project, the board has money set aside for the work but was waiting for guidance from Saint Luke’s.

The board covered various topics related to the transition, mostly about medical staff credentials, vendor contracts, employee benefits and technology systems. The transition team has worked on those matters for months, and expect things to go smoothly next week.

“You guys have been exemplary with the transition. I can’t thank you enough,” Steve Schieber, Chief Executive Officer for Saint Luke’s rural hospitals, said. He will be a member of the new operations board.

THE hospital’s financial picture continued to remain positive because of an influx of cash from federal assistance programs, despite a serious reduction in revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic, Chief Financial Officer Larry Peterson said.

The hospital’s revenue fell about $600,000 short of budget in May, but with savings on expenses the month was about $200,000 short of budget expectations. That’s better than April, Peterson said, which was about $750,000 short of revenue.

In April, when only essential and emergency surgeries were allowed, the hospital conducted nine surgeries. In May, non-essential surgeries were allowed and the hospital had 75 surgeries.

The hospital took out a loan of about $3.7 million at the beginning of the pandemic, as a precaution to make sure it had adequate cash on hand. Peterson initially planned to pay back that loan immediately, as very little of the money was needed. Instead, he’ll put it in an escrow account because federal rules “are always changing,” he said, and it’s possible the government may allow the hospital to keep some or all of the money because of the pandemic.

The hospital also got money from the federal CARES Act and the Payroll Protection Program. Most of that money will be spent to recoup losses from the pandemic, but cannot be transferred to Saint Luke’s. Peterson said most of it will be accounted for; if not, it must be given back to the government.

Allen County Regional Hospital Quality Manager Polly Barker, left, with Chief Nursing Officer Patty McGuffin, accepts an “Achievement” certification from the Kansas Healthcare Collaborative, for meeting goals related to Medicare and Medicaid requirements. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

IN OTHER NEWS, the board

• Recognized Quality Manager Polly Barker for her work that brought recognition from the Kansas Healthcare Collaborative. ACRH received “Achievement” recognition for meeting goals set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce hospital-acquired conditions and preventable readmissions. 

• Recognized the work of Peterson and Chief Nursing Officer Patty McGuffin for their efforts to transition ACRH from its management contract with Hospital Corporation of America to the lease with Saint Luke’s. Peterson will remain with ACRH; McGuffin is leaving for a position elsewhere in the HCA system.

• Heard a report on quality control measures. After the transition to Saint Luke’s, patients who visit ACRH will receive text messages and emails to survey their experience at the hospital. The current process is to telephone a small number of patients for a 30-minute survey. The new process should provide better results, Angela Slocum, ACRH’s risk management and emergency department director, said. 

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