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Hospital vitality in the county questioned
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DARLINGTON – Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County Administrator Julie Chikowski stated at the Hospital Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24, that she wanted to go on record saying she was disappointed by the presentation of information at the joint Finance and Human Resource meeting.
“I think we spent a lot of time and effort getting correct information and bringing it forward and the compromise that we came to, we will live with,” she said.
Chikowski said that one employee is very negatively affected by the compromise because she is salaried and does four different positions. Chikowski was alluding to Deanna Wright, who is training others for EPIC and she works as the Medical Surgery Manager, Infection Control Preventionist and Clinical Application Specialist and “she donates a significant amount of comp time every single pay period to the hospital” while the rest are hourly but “do work overtime to get things done but that overtime is far less expensive then it would be to hire additional positions” all according to Chikowski.
County chairman Jack Sauer said he was a bit concerned with the group that had met at the meeting and felt that the compromise would be a lot less unless he came up with something.
“You never know who is going to make a motion, a second and how,” Sauer said.
Chikowski asked if there was any thought to adjusting Wright’s pay because she is salary. She said that the other three workers with suggested raises are hourly “and have the ability to get paid overtime”.
“Part of our compliance is that 50 percent of her job has to be dedicated to the infection control piece of it. That leaves her with 50 percent of the time to do three other jobs,” COO Kathy Kuepers added.
She agreed with Sauer that there has to be some give or take but there is no thumb twiddling, referring to a comment Sauer made at the joint meeting.
Kuepers said they have no one that would be able to support Wright in her position because of her knowledge with infection control.
The Hospital brought to the joint meeting a request for $28,000 in raises plus fringe benefits. Chikowski said that the money that the hospital would have spent if they had brought in EPIC trainers would have been $150,000 and when they did comparables with the other hospitals, there was incredible what they were saving with those positions. Chikowski mentioned that Tony Ruesga had told her to stop comparing the hospitals “but he was the one with the comparisons” at the joint meeting.
“When you brings facts to the committee and you substantiate your facts, are you required to state where you got the facts from and names of people?” Kuepers asked Sauer.
Sauer said Ruesga did not name anyone.
Larry Ludlum said it is very tough to compare when other hospitals have more support staffing than MHLC.
“I wish we could do more,” Ludlum added.
Chikowski said she would respect whatever the committee decides but needed to bring the topic up.
Kuepers said that Wright would accept whatever the committee decides because she is a very loyal employee but the committee needed to be aware that she is donating much of her time.
Bob Boyle asked if the committee could recommend that the Finance/Human Resources look at the raise for Wright again. Sauer said they could try but it would depend who was at the meeting.
 Homer Evenstad commented he didn’t see anything wrong with donating a little time. Chikowski said that is true but Wright is donating a lot of time.
“Are we committed to having a hospital owned by the county in Lafayette County, because the way we get attacked on a regular basis, I’m not positive that is the feeling,” Chikowski argued.
Sauer said that has always been the feeling for some. It is hard to deal with an increase in wages to one part of the county and not others.
Sauer said there is a concern that the hospital isn’t going to make money and will take money out of the taxpayer fund and the clinics will do the same thing.
“I think the clinics are doing a whole lot better than was forecasted. There was room for improvement and I think we got quite a bit of that already. This thing will work for us really well,” Sauer stated.
Ludlum added that it isn’t unusual to have a negative cash flow when you expand you business.
“We are providing a service to the community, a very big service but we are a business. We have to reinvest in our business. If we remain stagnant we are going to die out there. We have to have good people providing that service in order for our business to grow. In order to have good people here, we have to be competitive with out neighbors and reimburse them. We look at things and trying to do the best job for Lafayette County and being mindful and being good stewards of their money,” Kuepers said.
“County government is supposed to serve the people. We have an elderly population. If we don’t have a hospital our elderly have to go some place else and have to travel a long way. Once we send people out of here, they do all their business there. It effects the whole economy of the county, what happens in this room,” Bev Anderson stated.
Sauer said the hospital is a lot more to the county than a health facility but it is an economic development catalyst.
Chikowski is not suggesting the county sell the hospital but just the county support the hospital and stop attacking them when they try to move forward.
“Look at the results. I keep getting shoved down my throat that we are going to be in the red and I’m tired of it. We have a great committee. We work really hard. We have a lot of people wearing a lot of hats because that is how it works,” Julie expressed frustrated.
Ludlum personally that Chikowski was attacked at the joint meeting and felt offended because being on the hospital meeting for three years and felt the committee works well together and works on compromises and everyone should be treated with respect.
Sauer asked Chikowski was kind of increase she was looking for. Chikowski stated that an extra $.50 would be a nice “thank you for all you do”. Kuepers said that this raise isn’t just a raise for her doing good at her job but she took on a whole new job.
Jack Wiegel made the motion to give Deanna Wright an extra $.50 plus the $1.50 raise that was approved at the Finance/Human Resources meeting, totaling an increase of $2.00 with Bob Boyle seconding. The motion was approved.
Audit Report
Before approving the audit of the bills, Chikowski pointed out that the hospital gave notice to their drug suppliers that they would be going to the Unity Point contract and should be saving 9 percent on their drugs next year. Anderson asked if the hospital has been affected by the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico. Anderson said she wasn’t aware of how much Puerto Rico supplies and has heard of bigger hospitals looking to different countries to get I.V. packs. Kuepers answered that the hospital is not in short supply but has had some extra supplies that if other hospitals need, they would help by supplying those items.
New Business
There is a water problem in the Argyle Clinic basement. If the hospital plans on keeping the building or selling it, the problem needs to be fixed. Chikowski presented a bid from Basement Systems for $8,983 to do all the work. The project would take two days to complete. The yearly inspection contract can be passed on to new tenants if the hospital plans to sell the building.
The committee also approved a new wheel chair for $1,000 and a glyde scope for $5,560.
The committee approved creation of a clinic lab technician, which would cost the hospital about $50,297 a year (hourly rate plus benefits) because the hospital will now be taking on more lab work from the clinics. By adding this position, Chikowski hopes the hospital will generate $150,000.
Management Reports
The committee received a quote for the phone system for the Shullsburg Clinic. They were not going to include Argyle because it is still up in the air as to what is happening with the building. For the Shullsburg Clinic, the committee got a bid of $3,213.
They also looked at quotes from Lange Signs in East Dubuque, Ill., for Shullsburg and Darlington. They need signs before the end of the year in order to be in compliance with the Rural Health Clinic status. For illuminated signs the cost would be $8,448 and $5,562 for non-illuminated. Chikowski thought they would need illuminated signs on the ER but wasn’t sure they would need illuminated for the other places. She commented that a light could be used to shine on the sign. The electrical service to light the signs was no included which would have been $500-$800 per sign. Sauer said if they were to go with non-illuminated, he would like to see a bid from Signs-to-Go in Platteville. Both Ludlum and Gerald Heimann commented on how good of a job Signs-to-Go had done at the ADRC building. Due to time limitations, the committee approved going with the non-illuminated signs at the most reasonable bid from either Lange Signs or Signs-to-Go.
Chikowski sent out an RFP (request for proposal) to bid on the build out for the dialysis space. The only bid received was from Miron Construction. Miron Construction estimated the build out to be $225/sq. ft., which is a total not to exceed $290,000. All the work would be bid out locally. Bringing on new doctors and specialists, the hospital employees have outgrown their specialty clinic. Chikowski said they have $200,000 in the budget for the build out. She proposed other monies would be moved around in the capital budget next year. She said she didn’t want to take a loan out for this project. The construction would start around the mid-January to the mid-February. Jack Wiegel made a motion to go ahead with the bid from Miron Construction for the build out with Bob Boyle seconding. The motion passed.