EUREKA SPRINGS --Only four commissioners and Mayor Morris Pate were in attendance at the June 18 Hospital Commission meeting, and vice-chair Michael Merry opened the meeting by announcing that Chair Bill Fort had resigned for health reasons. Merry noted the "tremendous amount of effort" Fort had contributed over the past 14 years.
Merry said he thought commissioner Pam Crockett was best suited to be Chair since she had done it before, but she respectfully declined. Commissioner Anna Ahlman moved that Merry be elected Chair and the vote was unanimous. Crockett agreed to be interim vice-chair until other commissioners are seated.
Merry also announced that on June 11 Jodi Love, the new administrator of Eureka Springs Hospital, resigned her post because she had been reassigned by Allegiance, the company leasing operations of the hospital, to a position in Jacksonville.
What to do with the money
Crockett told commissioners that because of a suit against Allegiance, a federal judge had increased the monthly lease payment due ESH from Allegiance from $5,000 to $15,000 and told Allegiance they were no longer under any obligation to build a new hospital.
Crockett said ESH cannot afford to build a hospital and cannot contribute its funds toward a construction project with a for-profit such as Allegiance. Therefore, she said, to show good faith toward encouraging Allegiance to get the job done commissioners should investigate establishing an escrow account and use the funds to assist non-pay patients. "We can't even use the money to buy equipment for the new hospital, but we can help the needy who go to the hospital," Crockett said.
Merry added that commission funds must be used for Eureka Springs residents only. Crockett said they might be able to use some of their money to support emergency services of the Eureka Springs Fire Department, and they might be able to support a job fair.
Crockett pointed out they would need strict accounting accuracy for spending their funds this way, and they would need to run all of this past their attorney, Seth Ward of Health Law Firm.
Commissioner Robert Walling asked if they could buy land and then lease to Allegiance, and Merry said they could.
Crockett added that if the hospital were not built they would still own the land, and Walling said they could probably negotiate a good deal for it at this time.
Ahlman said she would want a commitment from Allegiance before they buy land.
Merry said they would need to talk with Ward and do a bit more research.
Merry said he had spoken with someone who would take away an old CT machine at no cost but also for no return. He has learned that apparently it is so outdated no one would buy it.
Vote was unanimous to release the machine at no cost and for no return.
City council report
Crockett said she had appeared at a city council meeting May 14 and in her opinion some aldermen got stuck on out-of-date statutes and were missing important facts about the hospital lease situation. She said that eventually alderman James DeVito read from Code in an attempt to refute misinformation.
Merry said he had appeared at the April 23 meeting and had prepared a statement which he hoped would address council concerns. However, he said alderman argued about other issues and he never had a chance to answer questions or deliver comments. Crockett said both their council encounters were unproductive.
Pate told the commission he had heard that Allegiance is suing the City of Pocahontas for canceling its contract to operate the city's hospital. Crockett replied that they would have Ward look into it.
Next meeting will be Monday, July16, 1 p.m., at Echo Clinic.