The McDuffie County Hospital Authority made no decision Monday on an offer from University Health Care System to purchase the county's hospital.
But before going into a closed session to discuss the issue, board members heard sobering figures on the harsh realities of McDuffie Regional Medical Center's financial situation.
Chief Financial Officer Pat Parris said the hospital's revenue since Oct. 1, the beginning of its fiscal year, is $2.2 million less than in the same period last year. It has a loss of $794,614 so far this year, she said.
The 25-bed hospital lost $1,192,000 last fiscal year, she said.
Parris said that indigent care and bad debt are both up.
The hospital admitted only 53 patients in March. Parris said that, based on average census figures, the hospital has only five patients in beds on a given day. It needs to have at least 17.
University is under a confidentiality agreement with McDuffie Regional and cannot discuss its proposal, spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said Monday. But in a prepared statement, James R. Davis, its president and CEO, alluded to the difficulties that McDuffie Regional and other small hospitals face.
"We at University are aware that these are very challenging times, especially for smaller hospitals. The uncertainties of health care reform magnify the challenges. To help ensure that McDuffie County residents have access in the future to high-level, quality health care services in their community, University Health Care System has presented a proposal for collaboration to McDuffie Regional Medical Center, and we are awaiting their decision."
Even a discussion on McDuffie Regional's contract with a patient-satisfaction survey firm reflected that reality.
In the board's open session, Administrator Doug Keir said the hospital staff is not satisfied with the current firm, Avatar. He recommended that it approve a three-year contract with Health Stream Research, which does telephone surveys. Avatar does paper surveys.
Chuck Ellis, a regional vice president of Quorum Health Resources, which manages McDuffie Regional, noted that phone surveys yield better responses.
Keir also noted that the contract with Health Stream, which would begin July 1, would cost $24,443 annually, vs. Avatar's $35,000.
Board Chairman William Doupe moved that the board accept Keir's recommendation, then had second thoughts.
"The three-year contract with them might not be a good idea now," he said.
He withdrew his motion, then included language that would allow negotiation with Health Stream on possible early termination of the contract before submitting a new motion.
In other business, Keir said that an incident involving a patient who forced a lockdown at the hospital earlier this month has been resolved. He said he had ordered modification of the ceiling in the emergency room, where a mental patient gained access to a heating and cooling duct.
He also reported that the Ray Guy Golf Benefit on April 1 raised $32,000 for the McDuffie Regional Medical Center Foundation, up from $28,000 last year.