The future of Huntsville Memorial Hospital remain uncertain. 

After months of negotiations, officials with the Walker County Hospital District were silent regarding a management transaction after meeting with financial consultants behind closed doors Wednesday evening.

The hospital district narrowed the field of potential partners from four to one during a meeting two months ago, of which is reportedly a management agreement and not a purchase.

District officials met with Louis Robichaux IV and Chris Hebard from Ankura Financial Services, along with legal counsel, behind closed doors. The purpose of the executive session was to hear the “preliminary analyses of the district’s financial consultant and legal counsel, regarding the financial viability of a potential transaction with a hospital management company that has submitted a letter of intent for the operation of the hospital,” according to district chairperson Anne Woodard.

Woodard said prior to executive session that the district “would not announce any action from the session.” However, prior to the meeting it was noted that a deal was only a few weeks away from being announced.

Manager questions jail payments

Nearly six months after a new contract with Walker County took affect, one manager has called for a renegotiation.

“I had no say-so in this contract and it is a ridiculous contract,” manager David Tornjo said. “We are consistently paying for these ridiculous pharmacy products … this isn’t consistent on how we pay anyone else.

“We are in a crunch for money and we are consistently paying more now than we used to.”

The former contract required the hospital district to reimburse for approximately 55 percent of the cost of all inmate care, while the new contract will set it at 44 percent for the 2019 calendar year. The 44 percent rate represents the average amount of indigent inmates in the county jail. However, there are other costs that were given to the hospital district with the new deal.

“Prescriptions have gone up, but we have spent months of research to be sure that the jail is getting the lowest possible prices on the prescriptions,” Woodard replied

Hospital update

Huntsville Memorial Hospital CEO Steve Smith told district members that the average census at the hospital was up 7% in June as compared to 2018. He stated that over the 2018-19 fiscal year the hospital had an average census of 57 patients, which is 1.5% below the previous year.

Smith added that revenue at the hospital was down 14%, but expenses were down 17%.

He also stated that the average patient wait time is down to 30 minutes, and that upgrades at the hospital including a new nurse-call system that should be completed and installed in four to six weeks.

The next scheduled meeting of the Walker County Hospital District is set for August 28.

View www.itemonline.com for the latest details on a potential hospital transaction.

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