New EMS Station, District HQ On Track For October Completion
Hopkins County Hospital District Board of Directors newly reelected members took the oath of office and elected officers from among the board. The board also received an update that the new EMS station and district headquarters is currently on track for an October completion, considered HCHD employee insurance carrier and received a brief update on hospital operations from the administrator.
The oath of office was administered to Kerry Law and Joe Bob Burgin. The incumbents were the only two individuals to file candidacy for the two seats on the hospital district board at the close of the filing period, thus, HCHD Board of Directors was able to cancel the May 7 election. After reciting the oath of office, Law and Burgin then signed the requisite paperwork as well.
“It’s a distinct honor and privilege to serve as president of this wonderful board, but it would not hurt my feelings at all if I’m not reelected as president,” Kerry Law told the board when calling for nominations for the three officer positions on the board.
Burgin quickly made a motion for Law to remain president, Chris Brown to continue serving as vice president and Dr. David Black to continue as secretary of HCHD Board of Directors. Board member Kristi Shultz made a motion to cease nominations. Eimy Medina seconded the motions. The board voted to keeping the board officers the same as recommended by Burgin.
The officers’ oath was taken by both Law and Dr. Black. Brown was not at the May 24, 2022 HCHD Board meeting. He will be administered the officer’s oath at a future meeting.
Monica Blakeley with HUB International, an insurance brokerage that provides employee benefits, business, and personal insurance products and services, reminded the HCHD board transitions over the last year from United Health, which came in higher, to Cigna for medical insurance. There was really no rate adjustment last year, but HCHD was able to keep all three plans offered. Over that time, more was paid out by Cigna in medical claims that HCHD Board put into it. An adjustment is reflected in the quotes provided by Cigna for that.
The broker recommended staying with Cigna as doing so as projected wouldn’t result in any loss of benefits, and should allow employees’ copays to remain the same. With a guaranteed surplus rate adjustment for renewal and other adjustments, that would cut the renewal to half the original amount, with no increase to dental and voluntary benefits, and vision and life and disability are under rate guarantee.
HCHD CEO Brent Smith noted the proposals are the exact plans offered since the change to Cigna.
Law asked what HCHD employees say about their insurance.
Smith said he rarely hears any complaints about the plan. The new employees acquired from other agencies indicated HCHD’s plan is a better plan, one of the draws for paramedics and EMTs. It has been a good EMS staff recruitment and retention tool.
Angie Waller noted a few employees had complained about the hassled of having to make a change well into the year.
Smith said when the change was made, it took Cigna a little bit of time to catch up on some things. He noted that a few were charged a higher deductible for prescriptions. The issue was addressed to Cigna, and Cigna sent check reimbursing those employees who’d already paid that amount out of pocket.
“They made things right. I’ve been very happy with the program,” Smith said.
Smith noted that looking at the last three years, the plan utilizations should be on or pretty close to being on trend, because claims weren’t as high.
The board voted to renew medical insurance as recommended. Burgin noted that the board would have to reevaluate if the amounts keep going up next year.
CEO/EMS Director Brent Smith reported the new EMS station/HCHD headquarters is still on track to be completed in mid-October. However, the steel beams for the apparatus bay have yet to arrive, but are expected in August.
“As far as the interior of the EMS building and administration, it’s really taking shape,” Smith said.
An RFP for landscaping services was slated to be posted at the first of this week, along with a potential for a one-year service agreement for all HCHD landscaping.
He then showed some photos of the building in progress, including a sidewalk that connects to nothing else. He pointed out what appear to be utility fixtures jutting crookedly out of the middle of one section of sidewalk that shouldn’t be there. The locker rooms, toilet and shower rooms, are starting to take shape but had no fixtures or tile work as of the May 24, 2022 meeting. Crews are utilizing what will become the district’s storage area to house some supplies on site and keep them dry.
The first cement entrance had to be redone because the asphalt did not meet code. So those responsible for the concrete had to redo that to meet City of Sulphur Springs requirements.
“Slowly, but surely it’s getting there. I think if we would have had steel a little bit sooner, not the whole issue with the whole apparatus bay we would probably be close to getting it all done right now,” Smith said.
Other HCHD Information
Smith said Hopkins County EMS is still looking for an accountant. Three were contacted. One declined; the individual wanted a remote job only and did not want to drive to Sulphur Springs for work. One did not show up for the scheduled interview. One was interviewed. Currently, Smith said at the regular May HCHD board meeting, the accounting position remains open.
HCHD’s legal council, Kevin Reed with Reed, Claymon, Meeker and Hargett of Austin, is still trying to find the answer to a legal question posed at a prior HCHD meeting, according to Smith.
“BKD has been conducting the first round of the single auditors for the first round of PRF funding, which was through COVID stimulus stuff. That should be getting wrapped up before too long. KBD is just waiting on just a few items from a couple of facilities,” Smith said.
Waller reported The district had it’s first Quality Incentive Payment Program (QIPP) IGT year six call, which is scheduled to settle on June 3 for $2.3 million. The next call will be Dec. 22, and the last for year 6 and it is expected to be the same.
QIPP is state directed payment program (DPP) which serves as a performance-based initiative to help nursing facilities achieve transformation in the quality of their services through implementation of innovative program-wide improvement processes. Facilities may earn incentive payments for meeting or exceeding certain goals. Improvement is based upon several indices of success, including quality metrics that are collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. HCHD owns some nursing homes in other counties.
HCHD CEO Brent Smith reported EMS call volumes are still erratic. Overall, HCEMS in 2022 is on average down about 1 transport per day compared to 2021. He attributes the change to the volume of COVID calls last year. Destinations remain on track and are expected to still come in a little under last year’s rates, also due to COVID patient transports last year.
Hopkins County EMS, which served 4 counties, is currently fully staffed. The agency was able to hire 4 paramedics across the course of three weeks. Staffing came from Paris, Titus, McCurtain County and Sherman EMS services. Three fulltime EMTS and four PRN EMTS. Smith said, Hopkins County EMS has three personnel out on FMLA for various reasons. Two paramedics and one EMT also left: one for employment with Allen Fire Department, one with Hopkins County Fire Department and one for employment with Hunt County EMS. Fortunately, HCEMS was able to gain more employees than were lost, putting the department at full staff.
He extended appreciation on behalf of the EMS staff for all of food and other items donated to them by businesses and other entities in town during the recent EMS Appreciation Week.
Medical Director Dr. Smith attended the EMS Best Practice Medical Director Conference in College Station recently, where in addition to individuals he went to medical school with and former colleagues, he also had the opportunity to network with some of the best medical directors in the state. Smith said in his years with HCEMS, the doctor is the first to take part in the conference, in spite of HCEMS/HCHD offering to cover medical expenses for the medical director to attend. He plans to go over all clinical protocols, clean up some things, and ensure HCEMS is following the best practices for care. He said he is very excited by that.
HCEMS’ AmBus is also back in service, after approximately $100,000 in renovations paid for by the state. Smith said the bus did have mechanical issue on its way back from Houston. The rear brakes locked up. The braking system was completely redone, with expenses covered by the state. While there are not a whole lot of obviously things on the outside, looking inside all the wood was taken out and changed to aluminum, which lightened it up some. Bed-liner was sprayed on all exterior compartments to prevent rust in compartments in the future. Shocks were added so personnel won’t have to struggle lifting heavy metal doors to get supplies and equipment out; they’ll stay up now.
“There were a lot of odds and ends that maybe you wouldn’t if you walked through but the guys working on it did notice. It made a big difference. We’re proud to have the asset back and it’s in good shape,” HCHD CEO Brent Smith reported.
The funding was public health funds from Texas Health Services Commission, part of $2 million left over in their fund that had to be spent within 30 days. The money was funneled down for work on the “box.”
The architecture principal director for the Dallas architectural firm was scheduled to be at the May 24, 2022, HCHD Board meeting. However, a meeting he’d been waiting for a scheduling for three months was scheduled that night in Houston. He was required to be at the other meeting. He said he would be glad to come to any other meeting except that one.
CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital CEO Paul Harvey reported volumes have pretty much plateaued, especially on the inpatient side, but May is looking a lot stronger than April. However, the outpatients from March into April were the highest volumes in the hospital’s history on the records they have.
“I think we are going to end this year financially pretty strong, at or above the target NOI budget which is outstanding,” Harvey said. “We’ve been able to manage our expenses very well from a labor stand point. We are one of the few ministries in CHRISTUS that as of next week we will no longer have any contract employees. A lot of that happened during COVID. The prices charged for staff was just outrageous, but what could you do.”
In spite of that, Harvey said CMFHSS has had a low nursing turnover rate, which he attributed to the clinical team and leadership.
Harvey said an in-town bus accident involving a school bus on League Street recently resulted in more than 20 students who were on the school bus being treated, mainly as a precaution. HCEMS teams were on site as well. While the CHRISTUS ER staff was swamped, every child was seen and treated within an hour. Dr. Sherri Barclay came over from Jordan’s Place Pediatrics to assist with the students as well. He said that was an example of our community doing well what it does in times of potential tragedy. Harvey was very pleased with the way everyone worked well together.
Smith noted HCEMS then the next day responded to a second bus crash the next day in Winnsboro, that required similar efforts by local emergency personnel.
The meeting occurred the evening 21 died in Uvalde during the school shooting. That he says serves as a reminder that as a community, we all have to be prepared for unexpected situations.
“I’m just real pleased about the collaboration that occurred and us being able to take care of all of our kids,” Harvey said.