Hospital board says construction going well; but questions over funding still haunt

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By Alice Du Pont

There was good news and there was bad news at the Gadsden Community Hospital Board of Directors meeting last Monday night.

The good news is that construction and renovations at the hospital are going well. Clyde Collins, inspector for the county, stopped short of saying that progress on the physical structure is ahead of schedule.

"We're installing ceilings, the generator is due by Friday, the sheetrock has been done, we're finishing the painting and the roofer should be ready to get start finishing by Monday," Collins said.

Mike Glazer, the attorney hired to guide the county through the final phases of reopening, delivered the bad news. The physical structure, he said, could be the least of their problems. With no hospital administrator hired, the facility is starting off behind schedule. Glazer said the last hospital he helped open hired the administrative personnel 15 months before the projected opening date.

"You should be hiring staff 90 to 100 days from opening," he said. Opening for GCH is scheduled for June 21.

Then Glazer gave a laundry list of items that must be completed prior to opening the doors for patients. These items included manuals outlining policies and procedures, a payroll system, equipment that must be purchased, supplies that must be bought, a medical staff that must be assembled, credentials must be outlined and obtained, labs must be established, a pharmacy must be set up and the paperwork to get Medicare and Medicaid payments must begin.

"There are lots and lots of licenses. You may need to get in excess of 20 licenses. The lab will require state and federal licenses, diagnostic imaging license, at least one and possibly two licenses from the Federal Drug Administration, food services, radio license, frequency license, occupational license and if you have a helicopter landing pad you will need an airport license," he said.

"Agreements with other hospitals have to be signed, contracts for food service will need to be signed and risk management. There is a lot to do before opening," Glazer continued. "Why have we spent millions of dollars, knowing we couldn't get it open?”

“In your humble opinion is June 21 out?" asked board member Scott Whitehead.

"It will take a lot of money that you don't have," Glazer answered.

"We were depending on TMH to help us through a lot of this (licenses and startup) because they had the people with the expertise to do this. We need an administrator. We'll be able to get help from TMH and Calhoun County Rural Hospital. It may be it just a matter of whiting out and putting in our name. They both said they would help us," said Craig McMillan, chairman of Gadsden Hospital Inc.

McMillan said hiring a hospital administrator may not be hard to do given the current employment climate. He said he had gotten "all sorts" of calls from people interested in the job.

"People want to come to work for us. I don't think we'll lack applicants," he said.

In other matters, board member Herb Sheheane said the state House Regulation Committee will meet Wednesday and that the extension of the hospital's license is on the agenda. The extension has a better chance of being granted if the county can show that they are far enough along in the process for the extension to be relevant.

"The Agency on Health Care Administration helped draft the amendment to say that you are far enough along in the process for the extension. We hope the Senate bill will be on the schedule for next week. It's in the hopper," he said.

Collins asked the board for directions on the name of the hospital because the letters will have to be placed on the building. He said the old bronze "Gadsden Memorial Hospital" letters are still in very good shape and could be used. Because of the negative sentiments associated with Gadsden Community Hospital, the recommendation to Gadsden County commissioners will be to name the new facility Gadsden Memorial Hospital.