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Hospital budget gets no support

A 2012 budget that was described as preserving jobs at McDuffie Regional Medical Center failed Monday, and details of a competing budget were not disclosed.

The hospital authority's board rejected chairman Bill Doupé's motion to adopt "Scenario I."

There were no votes in favor of Doupé's motion. The only discussion came from Dr. Joe Wills, the hospital chief of staff, who said he wanted the board to discuss the matter privately.

Details of the competing budgets were not disclosed. Doupé referred the disclosure question to hospital administrator Doug Keir.

Keir, in turn, said neither version was adopted, so he would need to consult with the hospital's attorney about whether the proposals are public.

That discussion capped more than three hours of meetings of the hospital authority and its own finance committee. The board went into closed session for almost two hours to discuss personnel and strategy. There was no direct public mention of a pending offer from University Health Care System to purchase the hospital.

Earlier in the evening, discussion of Scenario I and Scenario II emerged from a report on a budget education meeting for board members.

"Neither scenario was particularly pleasant," Doupé said of the budget options. He then proposed the option that he said did not involve staff reductions.

After the meeting, Doupé explained that of the two budgets, "one had us losing a little bit less money." He chose the option that did not eliminate employee positions.

"We'll have to get back to the drawing board," he said.

Following the pattern set at recent board meetings, the board heard financial reports that spelled out monthly losses for August and larger losses for the fiscal year to date.

Chief Financial Officer Pat Parris said the balance sheet is "not a report you want to present," but explained that the struggling economy, reduced admissions and the rising number of uninsured patients continue to pressure hospitals.

Parris said the hospital had 49 admissions in August, the lowest number on record. The hospital recorded 85 admissions in that month a year ago.

Total patient days was 197, in comparison with 284 in August 2010. Total of cash and investments was $3.563 million, down $106,000 from the month before.

In discussing capital expenditures, Parris said the hospital administration is "only buying what's absolutely necessary."

Doupé questioned Keir about delays in paying bills.

"We're holding on to the cash as tightly as we can," said Keir, who added that the delayed payments are standard for small hospitals.

Keir outlined several federal proposals of concern to the hospital. "There are a number of things going on in Washington that point to the funding side of our business," he said.

The board's first order of business was an associate recognition for medical technician David Cole, who recently marked his 46th year of service. Cole, who could not be present for the honor, started at McDuffie County Hospital on Sept. 1, 1964, as an X-ray technician. After two years with the military in Vietnam, he returned to Thomson.

"His work is fast and accurate," Keir said.

Web posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011

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