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New surgeon appointed to HMH medical staff

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Dr. Bertrand Fonji

By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Howard Memorial Hospital has added a surgeon. Dr. Bertrand Fonji was appointed to the medical staff at last week’s meeting of the HMH board of directors. 

Dr. Fonji joined the hospital in 2021. He attended SUNY Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, NY, and did his training at Orlando Health. He received his Da Vinci System Training Certificate in 2010 and has been performing robotic surgery since 2013.

Dr. Fonji is fluent in Spanish. 

He was a medical volunteer in Ecuador and Cameroon.

In other credentialing action, the hospital board appointed Dr. Marcus Brown to the medical staff

Reappointments included Dr. Sam Peebles, Dr. Vance Wise and SLP Morgan Miller.

Hospital CEO Debra Wright told the board there was a slight increase in average daily census for Covid-19 patients in February because of acutely ill patients who could not be transferred because of bed shortages at other facilities. Patients were also being admitted to the primary care unit from the emergency department and were tested for Covid before transfer. Some were positive and were considered “incidental Covid admissions due to not exhibiting any symptoms of Covid.”

Drive-through testing resumed in February after back-ordered test kits were delivered. Wright said the demand for testing “has decreased dramatically.” 

Antigen, PCR and respiratory panel test kits are in stock.

Five employees were quarantined in early February but returned to work by the middle of the month. As of Feb. 18, no employees were out because of Covid, Wright said.

Conversion of west wing rooms to negative pressure was finalized with the programming and calibration of fans, according to Wright.

The R2-6 HVAC portion of the project “may be delayed due to the delivery of the equipment being pushed back from April to July,” Wright said. “This project cannot be done during hot weather months so it may be delayed until the fall.”

Phase One of the Covid Vaccine Mandate for healthcare workers went into effect Feb. 14. Documentation of vaccination information, medical or religious exemption forms or delay because of Covid infection must be done for all HMH employees, contractors, board members and volunteers, Wright said. Directors will keep track of the information. They also must document compliance “with mitigation to risk to prevent the spread of Covid within their departments.”

The Pediatric Therapy Center has been open nearly a year. It performed 98 patient visits during its first week, Wright said. Since then, there has been growth in physical therapy visits, occupational therapy visits and speech language pathology visits.

A record volume of 152 patient visits or 55 percent growth within less than a year of opening occurred the week of Jan. 24. Wright congratulated rehab director Paul Cox and his therapy team “for these outstanding results.”

Third-year medical student Samuel Byrd visited Nashville and met with Dr. John Hearnsberger to discuss a “possible preceptorship with the surgeons during his senior year. He plans to pursue a general urgency residency upon completion of medical school,” Wright said.

Dr. John Sayre notified Wright that he will retire from the medical staff March 1, 2022. He has served as vice chairman of the medical staff committee and chairman of the medical records committee. “I appreciate his years of dedicated service to HMH,” Wright said.

In the financial report, CFO Bill Craig said the hospital has 30.3 days in accounts receivable. The target is 45 days.

The hospital has 181.1 days cash on hand, well above the target of 145 days.

For January, the hospital reported a loss of about $71,000, Craig said.

The average daily census for January was 7.2 patients per day, above the budget of 6.9 patients. 

There were 2,941 outpatient visits for the month, 14.7 percent above budget.

The hospital reported 899 emergency department visits, which were 24 above budget.

Surgery cases were 44 cases short of budget, Craig said. There were 48 actual cases, compared to the budgeted number of 92. 

Net income from Home Health LHC, JV exceeds budget, according to Craig.

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