Santa Paula Times

Hospital Ad Hoc committee discusses potential partners

April 08, 2003
Santa Paula News
The Santa Paula-Fillmore-Piru Ad Hoc Committee met with representatives of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital to discuss the status of the search for a potential partner on March 19th. By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe Santa Paula-Fillmore-Piru Ad Hoc Committee met with representatives of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital to discuss the status of the search for a potential partner on March 19th.Although committee members had urged that the hospital not hire a consultant with depleted SPMH Foundation funds, they were pleased with the progress and wanted assurances that Quorum Health Resources would not take an active part in the evaluation of the hospital’s finances.The meeting, held at Santa Paula City Hall, was the latest in a series crafted after SPMH announced they were on the verge of closing their doors after losing millions of dollars. About $4.5 has been lost in reserves since late 2000 as well as over $1.5 million borrowed from the Foundation - a loan now forgiven - and a $1 million line of credit, as well as millions in account payables.“I didn’t know I’d be in this role until 7 this morning,” said Scott Lee, a SPMH board member, who was acting as the hospital spokesperson.A board retreat had been held with the consultants and five potential partners identified noted Lee. “I know it was a concern of the community not to hire a consultant but I’d be surprised if any of the board thought we misspent the money. It’s been very rewarding, opened our eyes.”Five potential “suitors,” Ventura County Medical Center, Community Memorial Hospital, St. John’s Hospital, Clinicas and Seventh Day Adventist, will be “contacted in the next few weeks to meet face to face,” noted Lee and then the list narrowed down to one or two for more in-depth discussions.“My understanding is that Quorum will not be a part,” of the discussions, said Lee.A matrix to measure each of the five potential partners has been crafted to “make it more objective than subjective” has been crafted to rate and rank the suitors.“One of our concerns has a board is that someone would acquire us and then close it down in three to five years,” said Scott. “We found that if we can this a profitable hospital nobody would want to close us down.”During later discussion, Santa Paula Vice Mayor Gabino Aguirre asked for assurances that Quorum would not participate in the process of evaluating a partner nor be present at board retreats studying partnership issues.“No,” said Lee and Marsha Rae, a SPMH board member, noted that Mark Gregson and Dan Jessup, the Quorum employees who respectively act as chief executive officer and finance director, noted that “Mark and Dan have been very supportive. . .”“As they should be,” said Aguirre.“As we expect,” noted Lee.Councilwoman Mary Ann Krause, the Ad Hoc Committee Chairwoman,
asked if potential partners have visited the hospital and Lee said they have.“My only concern is being able to evaluate,” hospital comparisons, she noted.“I have been totally impressed,” with the sincerity and interest of the other hospitals, said Lee. “I sounds to me like some are seriously interested.”Scott Rushing of the Ad Hoc Committee asked for latest audit information and for comment on updated hospital revenues.“February was a much better month,” said Carol Burhoe, chair of the SPMH board finance committee. “It bears out what we’ve been saying all along,” that if the daily patient rate swells hospital finances would also improve.Rushing also asked about donations: SPMH in late December had announced that $600,000 was needed to keep the hospital operational.Burhoe said about $102,000 has been donated to date.Unpaid vendors and suppliers also troubled Rushing, who asked for an update.“They’ve been very patient with us,” said Lee.Fillmore City Councilwoman and committee member Cecilia Cuevas said hospital-generated publicity has been lacking and urging more outreach to the community.Committee member Roger Campbell also questioned why more information on the status of the hospital and future plans have not been publicized: “All the local papers [Santa Paula and Fillmore] would run it on the front pages,” so high is local interest, he noted.Krause suggested that board members offer public comment at city council meetings, as their remarks “would get to most of the population in the valley here, even you just say you’re negotiating with a partner, just an update. . .”Lee said that the board would direct Gregson to “cover copy you with anything we give to the press. . .”“At this point we have a course of action,” and the committee will await further updates, said Krause.