Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Two Offer to Fill Sallisaw Ward 2 Post

At a special Sallisaw City Commission meeting, two candidates announced they would like to serve as the city’s Ward 2 commissioner.

Cliff Eppler and Ro Poindexter announced they would like to serve in the post.

The vacancy came about when Ward 2 Commissioner Jim Hudgens was chosen to serve as the city’s mayor. He will be sworn in at Monday’s regular city commission meeting.

Also on Monday’s agenda is a discussion and possible action on choosing the new Ward 2 commissioner. City Manager Clayton Lucas said whether a new Ward 2 commissioner is named Monday will be up to the city commissioners.

Eppler told the city commissioners on Tuesday that he was born and raised in Sallisaw.

“I have been here all my life,” he said. “I want the city to go in the right direction, and I want to get involved.”

Poindexter was ill and unable to attend the meeting. She had her statement read to the audience by Dianna Davis, city clerk.

Poindexter said she served as a city commissioner from 2012 to 2015. She said she was a volunteer at Sequoyah Memorial Hospital, for the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce and at the city’s animal shelter. She also organized the Guardian Angels, a group of volunteers at the animal shelter.

She said, “I want to give back to the city.”

City commissioners accepted the announcement for a decision later.

Also on the meeting’s agenda was a discussion of the Upper Payment Limit (UPL) program.

Lucas explained that, on March 29, the city staff was approached by the Sequoyah Memorial Hospital Board regarding the UPL program. This program is designed to improve the level of healthcare provided by nursing homes to their patients. It is funded through Medicaid and requires the city to become the owner of the license of participating nursing home facilities, while the current owners of the nursing homes become the managing partners. Any nursing home facilities within 150 mile radius, within Oklahoma, are eligible to partner with the City of Sallisaw to participate in the UPL program. 

The benefit of the program, beyond improving the level of healthcare provided by the nursing home facilities, is that as the city seeks reimbursement of program dollars from Medicaid, there is a negotiated split of funds between the nursing home managing partners and Sequoyah Memorial Hospital, after all expenses are paid. The total amount of funds expected to be transferred to the hospital is in excess of $1 million annually.

Unfortunately, neither the hospital, nor the nursing home facilities can participate in the program alone and require the partnership of a Non State Governmental Organization (NSGO). The City of Sallisaw qualifies as an NSGO, which is the reason the hospital and nursing home owners desire to partner with the City of Sallisaw.

There are a number of requirements and regulations regarding the UPL program, which is why a consulting firm is needed to facilitate and administer the program. On April 24 the city commissioners voted to move forward with the UPL program. Approving a contract with a consulting firm, would be the next step moving forward. Once the contract is in place, the City of Sallisaw can move forward to contract with nursing home facility owners to transfer the nursing home licenses over to the City of Sallisaw. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, accountants reported to the commissioners that the program was intricate, with many i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed, all of which should be completed by June 1.

Hudgens said his concerns were about possible liability and a prohibition about contracting with private entities.

The consultants said there have been no liability lawsuits in other states which have the program, and, if there were, they could be limited.

Hudgens said, “This board has not had the time to do our due diligence on this subject, and I don’t feel comfortable with it. The details matter and I don’t feel comfortable with the details yet.”

The consulting group asked for a list of issues or questions, which they would promptly answer.

Several members of the audience told the commissioners that if the city does not participate, Sequoyah Memorial Hospital will close due to lack of finances. The program is expected to pump $1 million a year into the hospital.

Debbie Knoke, hospital CEO, told the commission the program “will help us and also help our entire community. The goal is to improve our health care.

“We want to keep the hospital and help the hospital flourish,” Knoke said, “not just hang on by our fingernails.”

Knoke said numerous nursing homes have contacted the hospital to partner in the program with Sequoyah Memorial Hospital and the City of Sallisaw.

The UPL program is also on the agenda for Monday’s regular meeting, Lucas said.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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