The Territorial Hospital Board briefly held its final meeting for the calendar year Friday morning, approving a major vendor contract and touching on Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital’s payroll issues and the search for a permanent chief executive officer for the St. Croix medical center.
Present in St. Thomas’ Schneider Regional Medical Center boardroom were board chairwoman Lynn Millin-Maduro, members Maria Tankenson-Hodge, Debra Gottlieb, Anthony Ricketts, Wilbur Callendar and Miles Stair. Joyce Heyliger and Angel Dawson attended via telephone. JFL interim chief executive officer Kendall Griffith was also present.
The board unanimously approved the JFL contract with Varilease, which was tabled from its Nov. 7 meeting. An agreement with the equipment provider would allow the hospital to conduct outpatient radiology procedures in-house, instead of sending outpatient cases to Advanced Radiology.
In his Nov. 7 testimony before the board, JFL chief financial officer Deepak Bansal stated that a Varilease contract would give the hospital use of a bundle of equipment – including CAT scan machines, fetal monitors and a portable X-ray unit – valued at $1.2 million.
With the approval of the contract, JFL would have to pay $57,677.64 per month for a period of 24 months, amounts which, Bansal said, JFL can recoup from an anticipated increase in outpatient revenue. Bansal said the hospital can also choose to buy the equipment at the end of the two-year lease.
The board briefly discussed the contract with OmniCell, which would provide the hospital with a system that controls the amount of pharmaceuticals and other supplies in JFL’s dispensing system. Although the OmniCell contract was approved in the Nov. 7 meeting, Millin-Maduro still asked Bansal for a copy of the actual contract.
The board also unanimously granted conditional approval on Dr. Michelle Berkeley’s application for reappointment of clinical privileges, pending her advanced cardiovascular life support certification anticipated by the end of the year.
Berkeley’s application prompted Callendar to raise concerns about the mandatory ACLS certification required of JFL staff.
“You’re putting restrictions on your docs and you really don’t need to do that,” said Callendar, who called such requirements “imposing hardship.”
Ricketts assured Callendar that staff physicians did not find themselves in a situation where such requirements were imposed on them.
“The physicians themselves met during one of their meetings,” said Ricketts, who said there was no resistance from the physicians. Ricketts said the response from the physicians has been “very positive towards it. They have welcomed it.”
During floor privileges, Bansal addressed Dawson’s inquiry into the payroll situation at JFL.
“We do not have a line of credit with the bank,” explained Bansal. “We have one day of cash-on-hand, and it is not uncommon, mostly on the second pay period of the month, where we have to go into a slight negative amount in the payroll count.”
Bansal added that the bank usually allows JFL a dip into the negative for a couple of days. This situation “is nothing out of the ordinary,” according to Bansal.
Because November funds were used for the second October pay period, Bansal explained, the first November pay period experienced a dip that normally happens during the second pay period.
When Dawson raised concerns about the payroll situation during the second November pay period, Bansal responded, “We are trying our best to save funds for it. If need be, we will go to the bank.”
If the bank declines, JFL will have to go to Dawson, who is also the Finance Department commissioner, to seek its December allotment, said Bansal.
Tankenson-Hodge brought up the search for a permanent chief executive officer for JFL, citing what she said has been described as Griffith’s “looming expiration date.” Tankenson-Hodge said she was concerned that the matter would be left hanging, since the St. Croix board, which is charged with the search, is not likely to see a quorum until late January, and that is if the two nominations put forward by Gov. John deJongh Jr. are approved by the Legislature in a timely manner.
“By no means is it tabled, even without a quorum,” responded Millin-Maduro, saying the search was already initiated before the loss of quorum. “I don’t believe that not having a quorum is going to impede the process. The process should not have stopped.”
Millin-Maduro also mentioned that Sen. Sammuel Sanes, chairman of the Rules and Judiciary Committee, was going to prioritize the two nominations to the St. Croix district board and “has promised to have the nominees by the end of the calendar year.”
The territorial hospital board is tentatively scheduled to meet again on Jan. 10.