WINNSBORO — Community members and Fairfield County Council members continue to show concern regarding the continued operation of Fairfield Memorial Hospital.
District 1 resident Randy Bright’s comments during the public comments portion of the June 23 council meeting sparked comments from council members during county council time.
Bright cited the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services for statistics painting a poor picture of the hospital.
He said that since 2008, the salaries for the hospital was $5.8 million and in 2012 that amount increased to $6.4 million, despite less patient traffic.
Bright also told council that in 2008, 52 percent of the hospital’s total cost went to labor and in 2012 that amount increased to 58 percent.
“Less traffic but more labor,” Bright stated. “These (statistics) show our hospital troubles have been mounting for years and are getting worse each month. Our own county is not coming to our hospital.”
During county council time, District 7 Councilman David Brown said the hospital is about 21 percent over the overhead cost it needs to stay open.
“In response to your (Bright) 58.31 percent overhead, the magic number for a hospital to make it is 37 percent as far as expenses and employment,” Brown explained. “We’re about 21 percent over what we should be doing. So we need to definitely bring that in a little bit.”
In March 2014, Fairfield Memorial Hospital CEO Mike Williams stated the hospital was losing $300,000 per month, revenue was down 40 percent and finances had reached a point where the staff had to choose between paying salaries or paying vendor debt, which totaled more than $3 million.
Bright stated he wants the hospital to be around but emphasized the need for concrete action.
“What is our solution?” he asked. “More committees and more board members and more debt to the tune of $500,000.”
During the recent county council meeting, James McGraw was reappointed to serve his second term on the Fairfield Memorial Hospital Board.
Fairfield County Council approved a $500,000 loan to Fairfield Memorial Hospital in March 2014 to help stop the bleeding.
During a March joint meeting between council and the FMH board, Chief Financial Officer Tim Mitchell laid out a laundry list of debts that total nearly $3 million to 500 vendors.
In 2010, the hospital was making $1.1 million per month and now is bringing in $800,000.
Williams said half of the loan would be spent right away to catch up on bills and the other half would be held to accommodate bills coming in through the next three months.
District 6 Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley reminded the assembly about the fall off of patients attending the hospital since 2008.
“The in-patient side is dwindling and that is every where,” she emphasized.
Kinley also noted that the patients attending the emergency room is going up and totals around 1,000 visits per month.
“A lot of hospitals are closing because they can’t make it on just in-patients, in fact the Governor’s hospital recently closed” she noted. “There is a lot of changing in healthcare but I think our hospital board is to be congratulated. They’re working hard and there are changes coming in the future.”
Kinley identified the Stroudwater study as possible change for the positive in the future.
Stroudwater Associates is preparing a proposed partnership model to affiliate Fairfield Memorial with a larger hospital.
The study is costing $75,000, with Fairfield Memorial footing $30,000 of the bill. Stroudwater is a private company that evaluates hospitals and comes up with a model to sustain health care.
The contract with Stroudwater was signed in February and was recently returned to Stroudwater with additions made by FMH staff.
District 2 Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson encouraged community members to contribute what they could to help the hospital progress. She said everyone in the public has the opportunity to go to their county representative and request to serve on a board.
“Any of you that have a problem with any board, please go to your council member and ask them to allow you to serve on that board,” Robinson advised. “That is where you can come in and use some of your expertise.”
District 3 Councilman Kamau Marcharia said he believes a positive change for the hospital could also come from the state level.
“One way to help the hospitals throughout this state is to get our Governor off her ideas to not support Medicaid,” he stated. “There are hundreds if not thousands of people who die who have access to money, but this state is denying them. If you want change in this hospital go down and see if you get change the Governor’s attitude that poor people don’t need healthcare.”