Julie Ward, Sequoyah Memorial Hospital CEO, told the Sallisaw City Commissioners at their regular meeting Monday that the hospital will be seeking a multi-million dollar loan because the hospital “has serious financial difficulties.”
City Manager Clayton Lucas said the loan will be for $4 million and is expected to come from First National Bank of Vinita. He said part of the loan will be used to pay off another loan, from Firstar Bank of Sallisaw, which has a balance of $1.725 million.
Ward said of course that loan request must be approved by the city commissioners, and she will bring the loan to them when it is ready.
Ward said the loan will help with the hospital’s cash flow. It will also be used for some improvements to the hospital, which is now Northeastern Health Systems Sequoyah after its administration was taken over by Northeastern Health Systems.
Ward said she hopes to renew the hospital’s ICU license, update the registration desk, and move the records department which will allow the emergency department to be doubled in size.
Ward said, “The hospital has the ICU beds and equipment, but the license has expired. We need to get the license renewed with modifications.”
Ward said just over the past weekend three persons could have been hospitalized in an ICU here if available, and these patients bring in money to the hospital.
Ward noted that at the present time “registration is in the hall.” Patients entering the hospital must register in the hallway to the right of the front entrance. Ward said she wants to move registration to just left of the main entrance, into an office area that used to be for billing.
The hospital’s emergency room “is woefully undersized,” Ward told the commissioners. She said the records department backs up to the emergency rooms, and moving records will double the emergency department.
“Those are the things we intend to do with the cash,” Ward said.
She also explained that the hospital will be in a partnership with the Cherokee Nation and will be resolving issues with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBS), which has withdrawn its association with the hospital over a disagreement on reimbursements. Ward said BCBS, as an example, pays the hospital a base of $190 while paying the Tahlequah hospital $210. Both of those reimbursements are less than the state average, she said.
Mayor Jim Hudgens agreed. He noted that the Federal government will not help small rural hospitals survive.
“We need to do whatever is possible to keep our hospital open,” Hudgens said. He noted the hospital was essential for economic development in the community, and also is responsible for 200 jobs.
“We are 100 percent on board,” Hudgens said about helping the hospital survive.
The Sallisaw hospital’s financial crises took a turn for the worse after the state’s application of the Upper Payment Limit program, which allowed for financial partnerships between nursing home and hospitals, was not approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The application was denied in July.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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