The Gov. Juan Luis Hospital board of directors discussed ongoing efforts to improve the quality of care and finances of the health care facility, voted to include all employees in the Government Employees Retirement System and approved a new slate of officers during the monthly meeting Tuesday.
Acting Chief Executive Officer Richard Evangelista and Chief Medical Officer Raymond Cintron updated the board on hiring medical personnel for the chronically understaffed hospital. Advertising has been placed in several emergency room journals and on the internet, according to the acting CEO. Evangelista said that while recruitment is ongoing, a program in conjunction with the Schneider Regional Medical Center has been suspended until January.
Cintron said his focus has been to hire medical staff for the emergency room. So far, a physician and several physician’s assistants have been interviewed. One PA will begin working next month and another plans to accept a position upon licensing, Cintron said, adding that a second anesthesiologist has been hired and a backup cardiologist has been contracted for six weeks.
Evangelista said that improvements have been made in the emergency room and a pediatric urgent care area for younger, less critical patients will be created after the selection of a contractor.
Board member Philip Arcidi asked about a sharp surge in inpatient and outpatient surgeries in the last few months – 20 percent and 71 percent respectively.
Cintron said a scheduling backlog was cleared up and an order of orthopedic equipment had been delayed but was finally received. He added that some people just want to have their surgery before the holiday.
While the uptick in surgeries helped the financial picture, federal and local government agencies have stifled the ability to be reimbursed at a reasonable rate and pay vendors.
The U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have not responded to several written requests for rebasing its fees payment. Currently CMS is using a 1996 rate – equivalent to 38 cents on the dollar – to reimburse JFL for services to Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Arcidi said residents need to start a petition and, when 10,000 or 15,000 signatures have been acquired, ask the V.I. Delegate Stacey Plaskett to deliver the request to President Barack Obama.
“That is truly what we deserve here and we’re not getting adequately compensated,” he said.
Locally, the allotment from the V.I. Government for November has been delayed and vendors have not been paid on time as a result, according to Evangelista.
Board member Theresa Frorup Alie talked about the measures the human resource committee discussed to improve the functioning and finances of the hospital. The number of full time employees exceeds national standards, she said, and staff needs to be reduced and reallocated. Additionally, job descriptions should be updated and children should not be allowed to spend time in the hospital after school, because it distracts parents from their work.
During his report, Evangelista said CMS conducted a one-day survey based on a specific complaint at the hospital but the formal report has not been received. However, based on the exit interview, action has been taken to monitor patient charts, infections control and facilitate better care.
The board voted on several items including a 2017 operating budget and capital plan and a measure to cap overtime. The budget and capital plan were not disclosed to the public.
The board also voted to include another 410 employees in the GERS retirement plan by January 2017 so that the entire hospital staff is covered.
Human Resources Director Valdemar Hill said employees are aware that their contribution will be 11 percent of their pay but haven’t been formally notified.
After making additional payments for several years, JFL finally is current with employer contributions to the retirement system but still owes more than $4 million for previous years. According to discussion, the budget includes the amount necessary to bring GERS contributions up to date.
In other board action, six physicians were approved for initial appointment and three were reappointed by board vote.
Before voting on new officers, Troy de Chabert Schuster, board chairman, said he would not accept the position for another term due to the demands of his new job as AARP regional director. He then nominated Aracelis de Hendry Walcott for the position.
She was approved, as was Schuster for vice chairman, Arcidi as secretary and Theresa Frorup-Alie as treasurer.
The board also discussed filling two medical staff board positions that have been vacant for more than a year. By law, only physicians and nurses who do not work for the hospital may serve on the board. This provision has limited the available medical staff for a board position.
According to de Chabert Schuster, the V.I. Legislature will introduce a bill Friday allowing hospital medical staff to serve on the board. Should a conflict of issue arise, the board member in question would withdraw from discussion and voting.
The entire board attended the meeting, including Arcidi, de Chabert Schuster, Frorup-Alie, Walcott and Vera Falu. Juel Molloy from the Governor’s Office also attended.