Hospital commission begins search for new CFO

Thursday, April 8, 2021
File photo

The Eureka Springs Hospital is seeking an independent contractor to serve as its new chief financial officer (CFO).

At a special called meeting on Monday, commissioner Kent Turner moved to begin the procurement process to acquire an independent contractor as a virtual CFO. Turner said the contractor must have experience with Medicare, Medicaid and medical cost reporting. The commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.

The commission discussed the topic at length during its April 3 workshop, with chairman Tyson Burden inviting Bill Couch to attend. Burden explained that Couch has done the cost reports for the hospital for years. Couch never worked for Allegiance Health Management, Burden said.

“You worked with them, but not for them,” Burden said to Couch.

Couch, who has an office in Batesville, said he worked with Eureka Springs Hospital long before Allegiance came into the picture. Couch said he started his career working for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield as a Medicare auditor before starting his own business with partner Bob Hughes. Couch said Hughes helped write the rules for critical access hospitals.

“This was kind of his hospital, whereas McGehee Hospital was mine,” Couch said. “I would do the board presentations and meet with them as he would meet with the commission here. That’s how we worked things out.”

Hughes died in 2007, Couch said, so he started working with Eureka Springs Hospital. Couch said he worked with the hospital when Allegiance came on board.

“With Allegiance, I never did get comfortable,” Couch said. “So when we lost that relationship, it didn’t bother me.”

Couch said he’d be happy to take on the virtual CFO role, saying he can work anywhere with a cell phone and internet access.

“What I bring to the table is I rarely do get upset with people,” Couch said. “I throw a fit when things don’t work, like computers and printers. That just drives me nuts.”

Burden said he’s enjoyed working with Couch.

“Since I’ve been on the hospital commission, I’ve told everyone that you’re basically the only one I talk to who knows quite a bit more than I do,” Burden said. “There’s a real lack of knowledge out there. To find someone who has that knowledge … that’s really important.”

Burden asked if Couch could be at the hospital 50 percent of the time and Couch said he could work four days a week. He has a home in Fayetteville, Couch said, so he can easily get to the hospital when he is needed. Burden said the hospital is still using Medhost, saying that’s not Couch’s favorite program to use.

“For the time being, we can’t switch,” Burden said.

“We have no choice right now but to maintain what we have,” Couch said.

“It’s even worse than that,” Turner said. “We have to get it up to date before we can do another conversion.”

When Couch left the workshop, commissioner Barbara Dicks said former CFO Scott Stone told her repeatedly that he would need to go back to school to learn the medical part of the job.

“It’s totally different than a CPA business, and [Couch] … he knows it,” Dicks said.

“He does, and that makes me feel somewhat better because I don’t care to know it and you’ve got someone who does,” Turner said.

Burden said Couch could mentor hospital employees to take over when he is done with the job.

“He has discussed what it would take to bring him on board,” Burden said.

“I think we have to bid it since he’s not going to be an employee,” Turner said. “He’s going to be a contract CFO, a virtual CFO.”

Burden said the commission needed to bid out the job immediately.

“We can’t really wait,” Burden said. “Let’s bid it. If we find somebody better, we’ll go with them, but at least we know we’ve got one person.”

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