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By Dan Rudy 

Hospital finances healthier, audit nearly complete


The Wrangell Medical Center Board was officially acquainted with the hospital’s new chief executive at its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 21.

Already in his second week, Robert Rang was chosen by the board to replace outgoing CEO Marla Sanger, whose last day with the hospital will be tomorrow.

Initially hired for a year to serve on an interim basis through a management contract with PeaceHealth, Sanger ended up heading Wrangell’s hospital for the past three years. She will return to Washington to be closer to her family, and passes on the reins with the hospital on a relatively solid financial footing.

In his monthly financial officer’s report, Doran Hammett said the hospital looks to be in good stead with its annual audit. BDO of Anchorage recently went through Wrangell’s books, and found three adjustments, amounting to about $200,000 in the hospital’s favor. This offsets $175,000 which will likely have to be repaid to Medicare. A final summary will be available after cost reports are filed next month.

Cash flows continue to improve as well, as the hospital collects on its accounts receivable. In August, medical billing services were transferred to TruBridge, an Alabama-based firm. Despite some hiccups in the transition, Hammett said the service has been helping bring WMC’s old accounts up to date.

“By all accounts, it’s going well,” he said.

The hospital’s accounts receivable have been on the decline since July, when it was at $4.1 million. By this month that figure has shrunk to $3.66 million. WMC has also been catching up on its accounts payable – outstanding funds owed to vendors and other creditors – reducing that by half last month to $259,000.

The hospital’s cash on hand has improved markedly over the past 11 months, with around $886,000 on hand by mid-October. By the end of last November its reserve funds were down to less than $125,000, briefly raising concerns the hospital would be unable to pay for its operations. Financial worries persisted through the summer as $480,000 in bills due to Medicare had to be repaid. The Assembly approved an emergency hospital reserve fund of $500,000 in August; however, the bills were repaid without the fund having to be tapped into.

By continuing to find efficiencies and collect on old bills, Hammett had hopes the hospital’s cash levels could be brought past the million mark by year’s end. The goal is to be able to maintain 60 days operating cash on hand, or around $1.2 million.

With the hospital finances in order, Sanger has been introducing Rang to staff and preparing him for the transition to leadership.

“It’s just been a great pleasure having Robert join us,” she said.

Rang has emphasized WMC’s need for a new director of nursing as an early priority.

Clinical services director Diana Nore had stepped in at the end of August to fill the position’s duties after the previous nursing head left, but Rang explained a permanent replacement is needed. He also intends to find more permanent staff for the hospital’s nursing needs, which have been largely filled by temporary workers.

In her final monthly report, Sanger announced the hospital’s long-term care facility was one of five nursing homes in Alaska to win this year’s Quality Award from Mountain-Pacific Quality Health, a regional medical services facilitator. Recipients of the award have to meet six quality goals while also demonstrating exceptional commitment to patient and resident care.

An upswing of patients for new speech therapist Kristen Glaze has kept her program busy, Sanger reported. Working with patients both in Wrangell and in Petersburg, Glaze has been able to maintain a full-time workload.

During the regular municipal elections on Oct. 6, Wrangell voters had confirmed the re-election of board members Woody Wilson and Maxi Wiederspohn for four-year terms. One more vacancy on the hospital board remains to be filled, after Cori Robinson tendered her resignation earlier this month due to time constraints. Those interested in assuming the remainder of her term can contact Kim Lane at City Hall for more information.

Holding its own officer elections, the board chose Terri Henson to be its president again for another year. Bernie Massin was named the vice-president, Maxi Wiederspohn the secretary, and Barb Conine board treasurer.

Speaking as a person to be heard, Janet Buness wanted to remind everyone about the WMC Foundation book sale coming up on Nov. 14. The boxes of books available for sale number half a gross, so there will be plenty of winter reading material to browse through. Along with a Christmas quilt raffle, all funds raised go to the Foundation’s scholarship fund.


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