logo

Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online news service

LSHA

Lake Shore Hospital Authority:  Foot Dragging By Governor's Board Costing County Taxpayers $80k Plus a Month


Zoom image

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Sitting on a cash stash of just under $23 mil, the controversial Lake Shore Hospital Authority is limping along in its search to find a replacement to take over a vacated hospital that needs about $12 mil in renovations.

Monday Night at the Authority

The Governor’s Authority Board breezed through Monday night's regularly scheduled meeting in a cool 25 minutes.

Karl Plenge of TheNOC manned the Zoom console and has kept the Authority’s virtual meetings running smoothly for those attending virtually.

Background

In October 2020, Community Health Systems gave the Authority $7 mil to walk away from its lease and said sayonara to Columbia County. Even with the County's taxpayers subsidizing indigent care to a guaranteed tune of about $3.5 mil a year, CHS was losing millions operating the hospital.

The Authority's client base had diminished from a high of over 1,000 clients 10 years ago to only 102 in February 2021.

The loss is devastating. Between January 2020 and February 2021, the LSHA client loss has been 64%, with renewals in the Authority's indigent care program at a low of only 11 renewals.

While the authority staff is giving it the college try to recruit clients for the program and get old clients renewed, the numbers speak for themselves – folks are just not interested in using the Authority’s Indigent Care Program.

This is a systemic disconnect between the Authority clients and the Authority, which has been going on for over a decade. While the Governor's Board has talked a good game for the past decade, the facts speak for themselves: the Board has been a failure.

The Authority Board’s Foot Dragging Is Expensive

The Gov.'s Board had fair warning that CHS was leaving. It didn't do its homework and was surprised to find out how much it cost to run and maintain an empty hospital.

Last September, the Board agreed to provide $150,000 per month “to keep the hospital building secure and in operating condition until a solution is found for the building.”

This included hiring six CHS former employees with salary ranges from $47.12 hr to $25 hr. One employee began an inventory months ago, which Manager Dale Williams thought was worth $38 hr. If the hospital equipment ends up being auctioned off, the inventory will have to be redone as vital information is missing.

While the two regular employees at the Authority have to punch time clocks, the new hires from CHS do not. They keep track of their own time, as does Hospital Authority part-time manager Dale Williams.

The Governor’s Board doesn’t have a problem with this.

Since October 31, 2020, the Authority has spent $651,266 or $130,253 per month to maintain the hospital, the Authority headquarters and its grounds, and appurtenant buildings.

Part-time manager Williams has provided a monthly written narrative of the hospital expenses. He has not collected the numbers on a spreadsheet so the expenses could be tracked and analyzed.

According to Manager Williams, the cost of maintaining the hospital and its additional employees is a little over $80,000 a month.

The Prospects

At 10 am,  August 3, 2020, the Authority received Statements of Interest in response to a Request for Proposals. While the submission deadline was 10 am, Manager Williams and the Governor's Board ignored the deadline and received proposals after the deadline.

Sixty days later, on October 1, 2020, the Authority was to begin paying the freight to maintain the hospital.

Manager Williams and the board didn't schedule any presentations during that time.

The first presentation occurred on January 11, when the Lake City Medical Center proposed taking over the indigent care for the Authority using the Medicaid rates. These rates are as low as it goes.

Since that time, there has not been a peep from the Governor's Board regarding the Lake City Medical Center proposal.

On February 17, 2021, Panacea Health Systems made a presentation to the Authority.

On March 24, Ace Medical LLC of Jacksonville is scheduled to make a presentation to the Authority. Their letter of interest is here. Note that it is not on a letterhead. According to WebMD, Ace Medical has one office in Jacksonville with 4 practicing physicians.

Manager Williams is supposed to meet with UF Health Shands sometime soon to set a time for its presentation.

Shands's response to the RFP was late. It was clear that it had no interest in leasing the hospital building, which Authority Board member Stephen Douglas labeled a dinosaur.

At over $80,000 a month to carry its “dinosaur,” it will be interesting to see if Manager Williams is going to ramp up the Shands presentation to ASAP, rather when they feel like it, which would save Columbia County residents, the owners of the Authority, a lot of money.

Epilogue

CHS gave as one of its reasons for leaving town the information that Lake City can only support one hospital.

Lake City Medical Center is expanding its emergency room and hospital.

The Governor's Board needs to think about how much money it will waste chasing lost pipe-dreams of the past while it has an agreement to provide indigent care to Columbia County residents.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

 
Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.
 
 

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.