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Hospital calls on county commission for financial help

These are hard times for Doug Keir.

Indigent care reimbursements from the state have slowed to a crawl, and in response, the McDuffie Regional Medical Center CEO told Hospital Authority members last week that he is prepared to ask the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners for some significant financial relief.

"In November, December and in January we had excess expenses over revenues, and we're looking at that particularly in regard to the significant rise in indigent care," he said.

Mr. Keir said that in 2003, MRMC was responsible for around $380,000 in indigent care. This year that number has been projected to be around $680,000, a 78 percent increase.

Mr. Keir said that a steady drop-off in indigent care funding from the state level has occurred over the last four months, and he expects the situation to worsen as the year progresses.

"We certainly see this as a trend. Certainly the trend could change, but I think after looking at this for four months and, in my 13 years here, not having seen a rise or a trend like this ever before, certainly a situation like this requires some serious consideration."

That serious consideration will soon be requested of county commissioners. Mr. Keir said a meeting with the commission is imminent, and that MRMC officials would be asking for relief to offset some of the unexpected costs.

County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said that the board will be open to the hospital's requests.

"If they're getting in the position where they're going to have creditors call in debt they can't pay, we're going to obviously see what we can do about it," he said.

There are two silver linings to the situation -- one is the hospital's reserve fund, the amount of which will probably determine just how much additional funding the county will be willing to give up. The other is $200,000 of sales tax payments for the hospital that are set to begin this year. While sales tax dollars can only be used for capital expenses, it will still provide a significant financial boost.

Mr. Newton said that the meeting will consist of a serious, page-by-page examination of the hospital's financial records.

"I've never seen those numbers presented in an audit type report, so that's what we would most likely as for when they come," he said.

Web posted on Thursday, March 4, 2004

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