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By Dan Rudy 

Public meetings on new hospital successful; WMC finances stable


At its monthly board of trustees meeting April 15 Wrangell Medical Center, CEO Marla Sanger revisited public discussions about the future of healthcare services held earlier this month.

Some 30 residents attended the discussion, facilitated by Anchorage consultancy Foraker Group at the Nolan Center April 2.

“It was worth attending. I learned lots,” said board treasurer Barb Conine.

“The people that came were really curious,” Sanger commented. WMC has applied for Foraker’s assistance with predevelopment work for building a new hospital, which would be constructed near the new Alaska Island Community Services clinic on Wood Street.

Sanger has explained the two facilities’ closeness would make continued collaboration between the agencies more efficient.

“Healthcare’s really changing fast now,” she told the board. Critical to making healthcare provision sustainable in Wrangell, the extent to which its hospital shares out its services will need to be determined.

As recommended at the public meeting, she and AICS director Mark Walker plan to begin working together with the hospital and clinic boards to determine how the community feels the two should provide services in the future.

“There’s a lot going on right now,” Sanger said.

In her monthly report, Sanger told board members the hospital met billing practices based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) standards, after a regulatory audit of WMC billing documentation examined 61 claims from 2011. With one exception, no errors were found, which she explained is a good result.

“There is a number of things in each file that could be wrong,” board member Woody Wilson emphasized.

“It’s very common for an auditor to find things that are missing,” Sanger agreed. An oversight had resulted in one of the requested files not being submitted.

“We were able to go back and provide all the missing information,” she continued. The hospital is now awaiting the completion of the audit.

Financially, revenues for WMC were down for the month of March, but they were offset by lower expenses than originally budgeted.

The hospital’s reserves have also improved since last December, when it approached the Borough Assembly with news it had around $123,000 on hand, to cover less than a month’s expenses. It reported having $737,590 by March’s end.

“I think we’re making forward progress,” Sanger said.

The hospital also nears the end of repayments for Medicaid advances of over $728,000, which were extended last year when the government provider was anticipating trouble with its billing programming.

“I think we’re down to about $2,100,” reported Mary Jo Pullman, who was filling in for interim CFO Olinda White while she was on vacation. White has been the hospital’s stand-in financial officer since October.

In matters of personnel, seven WMC staff members recently completed a 10-week CNA training, taking the state licensing exam on April 8.

Sanger reported hearing positive feedback on this year’s annual health fair, which featured informational booths and returned laboratory results to patients participating in blood draws held the weeks prior. In previous years, the draws are held during the fair itself, which she said could be overwhelming for lab staff.

Two-hundred and fifty results were picked up at this year’s fair, with a number of positive comments about the change. Outreach coordinator Kris Reed reported that of 169 surveys collected, only three of them requested having the blood draws held at next year’s fair.

“It did go really well,” agreed Terri Henson, the board’s president.


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