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HMH continues staff search

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By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Staff recruitment continues at Howard Memorial Hospital, CEO Debra Wright told the board of directors Aug. 24.

A prospective anesthesiologist “received the offering letter and independent contractor agreement sent to him contingent on obtaining medical staff privileges,” Wright said, along with acquiring medical malpractice insurance. Applications for both have been sent.

Wright said that the applicant for the chief nursing officer position has withdrawn her application. Wright discussed the applicant at the Guy board meeting.

Another applicant was interviewed by Zoom and is expected to provide dates when she will be available for an on-site interview and tour of the community. 

Wright said she has contacted a surgeon who completed his general surgery residency at UAMS in July. HMH surgeon Dr. John Hearnsberger has talked to the prospect, Wright said.

Wright invited him to tour the hospital and community. “He indicated he was interested in locum tenens coverage while searching for a permanent position.”

Wright said her priority has been “filing the anesthesia provider position before focusing on recruitment of another surgeon.”

In other discussion at the board meeting, Wright said three employees are out because of Covid-19. 

Her monthly update on the virus said 16 Covid positive patients had been admitted as of Aug. 18. “Thus far, none of the patients who have required admission has been vaccinated,” reflecting similar reports from across the state and nation.

HMH has been performing Covid tests for more than a year in-house. Drive-through specimen collection for testing is available from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily, she said. ED nurses collect specimens from 7-10 a.m., and a screener conducts the collections from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The hospital has seen a “dramatic increase in orders for outpatient monoclonal antibody therapy infusion this month. Since January, 114 doses have been administered,” Wright said, with 61 of those doses administered as of Aug. 19.

“It is primarily the surgery nurses who are providing coverage for MAT administration since there has been an increase in inpatient admissions to the patient care unit. Even though it is a strain on staffing, it is a priority to provide this service since it may prevent hospitalization,” Wright said. “I really appreciate the staff who are administering this therapy.”

The hospital continues to receive Covid-19 test kits but reserves PCR tests for scheduled outpatients, surgery patients and employees needing testing, according to Wright. The antigen test is used for all other Covid testing unless the order specifies PCR.

Wright reviewed the number of active cases in Howard and surrounding counties. Since her report, the cases have increased locally and around the state.

Wright participated in the UAMS IDHI call earlier this month and was told that 20 percent of active Covid cases are among children under 18. “The pediatrician on call, who works at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, recommended that hospitals contact the school districts in their service areas and strongly recommend following the Arkansas Department of Health school guidelines.” Wright spoke to the Nashville School Board Aug. 12 to recommend that masks be required for all students and staff. The board approved a mask requirement.

Wright said FEMA assistance with funeral expenses is available when death was caused by Covid. More on the aid will be included in a future issue of the News-Leader.

CFO Bill Craig gave the financial report for July. Howard Memorial showed net income of $359,577 for the month, compared to a project loss of $101,500, Craig said.

Volumes for the month were ahead of projections, he said.

The average daily census is 7.8 patients, 39.1 percent above budget.

Outpatient visits were 18.2 percent above budget at 2,580.

ED visits were 76 above budget.

Craig said filled charges were $1.3 million ahead of budget fo rJuly.

The hospital reported a favorable estimate for the July 2021 cost report and nine-month interim cost report settlements.

Medicaid assessment revenues were about $37,800 above budget, Craig said.

The hospital has 31.3 days revenue in accounts receivable, with the target being less than 45 days.

HMH has 224.1 days cash on hand, well above the target of 145 days.

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