While the Tulare Regional Medical Center’s forensic laboratory is open, the hospital and its clinics still have no concrete opening dates, the hospital’s board was told Wednesday night.
“I think the summation of where we are is that HCCA left a lot of major obstacles in our way,” Larry Blitz, the hospital’s interim CEO, told the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s Board of Directors. “We are working diligently, 24/7, with our attorneys, to try to create some type of agreement that we would be able to open the hospital.”
The reopening of the hospital’s clinics is also in limbo, Blitz said. While initial reports were that the hospital and its clinics needed to reopen at the same time, he claims that different sources are stating the clinics could be “evaluated separately.”
“We’re trying to get some political help to make sure that the staff of these agencies are together on what they’re trying to communicate,” he told the board.
Kevin Northcraft, the chairman of the district’s board, told the audience during the opening of the meeting that the board will continue to consider all options for reopening the hospital, and requested real estate negotiations be placed on next meeting’s agenda.
“We need to make the community aware that we look at all options — we have a plan, but we also need some options to that plan,” he said. “I would like at our next meeting, to consider that we at least talk about all options. I think in the long run, the primary mission of a lot of us is to get our hospital open, operating, and serving our population.”
Blitz additionally stated the staff of the Mineral King Lab, the hospital’s forensic lab, had managed to gain back approximately 95% of the lab’s former clients.
The lab reopened on Monday. Law enforcement agencies across Tulare County used the lab’s services before the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s services, including its hospital, clinics, forensic lab, and gym were shut down.
The district’s success in bringing its lab clients back, however, is only one piece of the puzzle for a district which is still needing to pay its own staff, plus outside professionals.
Some of those professionals haven’t taken the lion’s share of what they’re owed to allow the district breathing room.
“A lot of the funding that is enabling this crew and the people out there to work, is that HFS and the attorneys have not been paid,” Blitz said. “They’ve been paid almost nothing compared to what the bills are.”
As of the date of the meeting, the hospital’s law firm, McCormick Barstow, was owed $300,000, while its bankruptcy attorneys at the Walter Wilhelm Law Group were owed nearly $525,000. Additionally, Wipfli/HFS Consultants, the hospital’s temporary management, were owed nearly $1.3m, according to Dan Heckathorne, the hospital’s CFO.
“Larry and I are not getting that 1.3 million,” Heckathorne said.
The hospital is hoping to receive significant amounts of outstanding accounts payable — reported in January to approximately total $40m.
That number dropped to $31m after Wipfli staff discovered and posted “millions of of dollars’ worth” payments that were delivered to the hospital, but not reflected in its accounting systems, Heckathorne said.
The actual value of that accounts receivable balance could be as low as $3.7m, but it was still important, he added.
“In the hospital business, unfortunately, what’s on your books is not what you collect. Never,” Heckathorne said. “As an example, if you have Medicare — let’s say you have a $20,000 bill. Medicare may pay $8000, you may pay $2,000; and, the rest of it, the patient is led to believe it’s paid for — guess what, it’s not.”
Another roadblock was presented in the form of six different financial software packages — each holding a piece of the hospital’s financial past, and each with its own unique problems.
Because of some of those challenges, and expenses, the hospital’s finances could be in the negative by March 16th.
Additionally, auditors from the State of California, following up on the authorized audit of the hospital and its past management, were in attendance at the meeting. Heckathorne attempted to recognize them, before being stopped.
“I don’t think they want to necessarily be recognized,” Kevin Northcraft, the hospital board chairman, said.
Proud to Wear Pink
Love to Wear Red, the Tulare Hospital Foundation’s event promoting women’s heart health, drew 350 women, Jan Smith, the Executive Director of the foundation, said.
While the foundation won’t hold a Summer Jubilee this year, it plans to hold a breast cancer awareness event, called Proud to Wear Pink, in October.
“October 6th, we will be holding our first annual ‘Proud to Wear Pink,’” Smith said.
The foundation still plans to hold its Festival of Trees event as well.
Even without a hospital, Smith said that the foundation would continue to promote healthy lifestyles.