Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Hospital reserve fund passes million-dollar mark


The hospital’s financial reserves continue to improve, the Wrangell Medical Center Board learned during its monthly meeting Nov. 18.

Financial officer Doran Hammett reported the medical center’s coffers topped $1,001,000 by the end of October, equivalent to 36 days’

operating expenses. This was up from under $600,000 at the month’s start, though after payments made to Medicare, Hammett said the reserves were back to $729,000 by the time of the meeting.

“It is certainly trending in the right direction,” he said. Deposits collected by WMC for the month of October were in excess of $1 million, and revenue was on its way to top $1.2 million for November.

The center’s financial situation has improved since the previous year, when reserve funds were down to less than $125,000 by the end of November 2014. At the time hospital administrators warned the Wrangell Assembly it might not be able to pay for its operations. Financial worries persisted through the spring and summer, leading the Assembly to approve an emergency hospital reserve fund of $500,000 in August.

Steps were made to enact efficiencies and improve cash flows. WMC’s billing services were contracted out to TruBridge in August, and the company has since begun to work on reducing the hospital’s accounts receivable, which had ballooned to $4.2 million in late 2014. That figure has shrunk to $3.6 million by Oct. 31, through both collections and in identifying outdated or non-collectable items.

“A lot of that kind of stuff is being cleaned up and getting off of our books,” Hammett said. “By all accounts it’s going very well,” he said of the transition.

In all, Hammett reported Wrangell’s hospital was on a more steady footing for 2015. “I’m not prepared to say we’re out of the woods, but the pathway’s a little brighter.”

Finances were not WMC’s only concern this year, with staffing issues persisting through the summer. In his monthly report, new hospital CEO Robert Rang said a replacement chief

nursing officer has been hired. Of several dozen candidates screened for the position, Sherri Austin of Virginia was offered the position last week

after a site visit. She begins Dec. 14.

Rang reported two other hires: Ted Richey joined the maintenance department on Oct. 13, and Shannon Smith began with support services staff on Nov. 2.

A new registered nurse was also hired recently, addressing a goal Rang has set to find more permanent nursing staff. Deborah Richard began this month, coming from San Diego.

“The snow didn’t scare her this morning, so that’s a good sign,” Rang joked.

He told the board WMC still has three traveling nurses on staff, but that more permanent candidates are being sought. The primary issue with

traveling staff is the expense for relocation and retraining. But Rang pointed out the hospital has lately been fortunate with the travelers it has, who tend to be returning staff familiar with the facility.

The hospital’s dietary department passed a surprise inspection by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation on Nov. 5, with no deficiencies found.

“That’s not an easy thing,” Rang noted.

The medical center’s special offer on mammographies throughout October proved successful, brining in 64 women for examination.

“We were pretty pleased with those numbers,” said Rang.

The hospital board is looking for candidates to fill one

vacancy, after accepting the resignation of Cori Robinson. The unexpired seat lasts through Oct. 2018. One letter of interest has already been submitted, but those interested can contact the City Clerk’s office before the Assembly’s Dec. 8 meeting.


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