Longtime chairman to resign from hospital commission

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Longtime chairman Michael Merry is resigning from the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission.

Merry announced his resignation Nov. 19, saying he’s been with the commission for 14 years. Merry said Mayor Butch Berry asked him to stay on the commission a little longer last year while negotiating hospital renovations with Allegiance Healthcare Management. Berry recently asked him to step down as part of a plan to turn over leadership on all city commissions, Merry said.

“He’s trying to initiate it so the officers at least change their position, if not only serve for a maximum of four years,” Merry said. “I’ve been chairman a lot more than four years.”

Commissioner John House said that’s a good idea.

“The organizations I’ve been a part of that have had the most success have been the ones that every year the people change,” House said, “so there’s a new chairman, treasurer and secretary every year. The idea is that everybody gets involved in the various positions.”

Merry said he plans to stick around until February to help the leadership transition, saying he’s confident the commissioners will keep moving in the right direction.

“Hopefully at the end of 90 days, we’ll know where everybody is going and I can step aside,” Merry said. “Thank you very much, folks. I have loved serving with all of you. It has meant a lot to me.”

In other business, the commission discussed a letter attorney Megan Hargraves is preparing to send Allegiance regarding late rent payments. Merry said he sent the letter to the wrong address and re-sent it Nov. 17. He asked the commission for any other input to send Hargraves.

“Essentially what we’re looking at is what is our goal, and what do we want Ms. Hargraves doing for us in the future?” Merry said.

Commissioner Mark Tozier said he wants to know how the critical access designation works. Does Allegiance have the designation, Tozier asked, or does the commission?

“That designation is important, because that provides for Medicare payments to the hospital and a certain reimbursement rate,” Tozier said.

“I think that’s important,” Merry said, “because the commission has been given multiple answers to that question over the years from a variety of sources, and we need to know what the truth is.”

House said he’d like to know more about the critical access designation as well. Another thing he’s interested to know, House said, is how to track progress at the hospital.

“We can’t really give the community a report card on the hospital, because we don’t have a report card,” House said. “The more we can do to present that information, the better off the hospital will be.”

Treasurer Barbara Dicks said she’d like the commission to receive a survey from patients at the hospital.

“Can we have something that the patient is given about their experience and how they feel that is mailed directly back to us?” Dicks said. “I know they have that and management gets it, but we don’t know what it says.”

Tozier said he’d like to look closer at the lease agreement between the commission and Allegiance.

“Is [the agreement] only to receive rent, or is it to make sure we have a viable hospital to serve the community’s needs?” Tozier asked.

It would be good to examine that relationship more closely, Merry said. He agreed to work with Tozier to look over the lease agreement.

“Every time they send us money, it’s more than the last time,” he said. “But there’s no way of tracking it.”

In other business, hospital CEO Vicki Andert presented a report on how the hospital is doing. Andert said Allegiance recently sent a $30,000 payment to the commission for two months’ rent.

“We paid the current month, and we paid the oldest invoice,” Andert said.

Andert said the hospital is looking for a second practitioner, saying a full-time physician is a major need in the community. The new physician would be located in Holiday Island, Andert said, and could eventually move to Eureka Springs.

“To help fill that demand is important to us,” Andert said. “We have had several interviews, and we’re still interviewing.”

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the ECHO Community Room.

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