ROCK SPRINGS – Recently, officials from Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County gave an update on the goings on at their facility, as well as answered questions from the Sweetwater County Commissioners.
Chief Financial Officer Irene Richardson started by giving a financial update. Currently, MHSC is $1.5 million ahead of the current budget only 3 months into their fiscal year. Richardson said this is very good news because they were able to stay $1.5 million to the good during the months that are normally lower in volume. She said they are now entering what have historically been busier months for the hospital
The recent audit was also discussed. Richardson said they received a good audit report with no material weaknesses or discrepancies. For the multi-million dollar corporation, the auditors only found $350 dollars out of place.
Sweetwater County Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said he was glad to hear this as he has had several questions about the finances of the hospital.
MHSC was also asked how the partnership with the University of Utah was going. Chief Executive Officer Jerry Klein said MHSC was the first hospital to become affiliated with the U of U in 2012, Since then, there are now eight hospitals that have also become affiliated with the University.
Klein said through the affiliation, MHSC has been able to bring many new services to the county as well as enhancing other services. Though the affiliation, MHSC has cardio vascular services now as well as tele-medicine, more specifically tele-stroke and tele-burn.
Through the telemedicine, a robot allows specialist from the University to exam patients and help make decisions on the best course of action. If it is decided a patient must be taken to Salt Lake, the medical team who was involved through tele-medicine would be the same team the patient would be seen by there. Klein also added the physician who was involved with the patient in Salt Lake could also do all follow-up visits through tele-medicine, which would keep local patients home.
Klein also announced they are working on electronic ICU. MHSC would be the first site where this would be done. Klein said specialist from the U of U would be able to monitor the patient in real time, again giving patients the same care here they would receive at the U of U but without the travel.
Through the affiliation, the Regional Cancer Center was designed by the Huntsman and Klein explained the Huntsman also interviewed prospective employees for the center to make sure MHSC had the best they could get.
Klein was asked who makes the decision when a patient needs to be life-flighted. Klein said the emergency room physician would ultimately make that decision.
Another questioned followed as MHSC was asked if a patient had to go to the University of Utah when they were life-flighted.
Klein said by no means is it exclusive to U of U. He explained if a patient had previous treatment or preference of another hospital, they would be taken there.
Klein was then asked about Guardian. Klein said if a patient requests Guardian then that’s who would provide the service. He said no one has ever been forced to use the U of U flight who wanted Guardian.
He was then asked about Guardian now being located in Fremont County and the effects it would have transporting those who wanted Guardian. Klein challenged residents to compare the prices of the two companies.
The focus then switched to construction and possible expansion. MHSC representatives were asked if they thought they should come before the commissioners before doing any new projects.
Klein said the commissioners appoint a board who takes care of the business at the hospital. He said they investigated projects and when they feel like they would need to request financing to make the project a reality, then they come before the commissioners. He used the possible ambulatory surgery center as an example. He said MHSC has the money to do the project and will move forward. He said the auditors and bond officials Will Douglas and Barbara Bonds have told the hospital the project is totally feasible.
The commissioners questioned Klein about the Medical Office Building, noting the top floor build out was not part of the sixth-cent tax. Klein said MHSC has paid for the build-out and none of the tax money is being used for the top-floor build-out. He said the public approved the project through the sixth-cent tax and that MHSC is very grateful for that, adding they would not misuse the funds the public was so generous to approve.
There was then a question about the ambulatory surgery center being a joint venture. Klein said the building would be MHSC’s property and then the services provided in the building would be a joint venture. The commissioners asked if they thought they would need bonds to cover the cost of the new center. Klein said he could not answer that because, at this point, they are still investigating and waiting for the state to approve plans for the center before they even knew what the cost would be for the project.
“We are just not there yet,” Klein explained.
Klein said if there was concern in the public about certain issues, their board meetings are open to the public and there are two points in the meeting that allow the public to ask questions or talk to the board about issues.
The commissioners then said there is a feeling in the community the hospital is taking over and taking all the local physicians. Klein said when he took over as CEO, one of the big outcries from the public was to bring good physicians to the area. Klein said MHSC has done that and continues to recruit physicians to the area.
Klein also added if you talk to a lot of physicians in today’s health-care climate, they will say they do not want to be independent and would rather be affiliated with a hospital. Klein said the reason for the rapid growth is because that is what the public wanted. Again, he said when he took over as CEO, the public wanted more services to keep them home instead of traveling to Salt Lake for services.
“This is what we are doing,” Klein said. “If the public would like us to slow down then that is what we will do.”