ES hospital commission agrees to lease ‘gold standard’ testing machine

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs Hospital Commission is getting prepared to test Carroll County residents for COVID-19.

At a special called meeting on Tuesday, May 26, the commission heard from lab director Tina Adams about the GeneXpert. Adams said the GeneXpert is the gold standard test for COVID-19. Adams said the equipment will also test for the flu, RSV and sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia. Chairman John House said the equipment is different from anything the hospital has right now.

“This is just basically a different analyzer that adds more functionality to what we can do,” House said.

House said the commission can use grant money to purchase the analyzer.

“We can only use it cross-related to this pandemic, and we can’t very well run the test without the machine,” House said, “so it follows that the machine could be purchased with this money. If it turns out differently, we could cover it, but that’s my understanding.”

Commissioner Chris Baranyk said he wants to know for sure that the analyzer is covered by the grant money.

“This is a very expensive machine and if we knew we’d have this covered by government relief, it would be a lot easier decision to make,” Baranyk said. “The hospital commission has a lot of expenses right now and we have to be careful with our expenditures. I want to make sure we do this in a smart way.”

Darrell Parke, who works with Alliance Management Group, said the hospital wouldn’t lose any money on the machine because it would go on the cost report. Baranyk asked Adams if anyone else has used grant money to purchase the machine and she said she wasn’t sure.

“I can email them and ask that,” Adams said. “I will say the grant money we got might not be grant money another hospital got unless they are critical access. This will cover all our testing for the coronavirus. We should not have to purchase anything to test for the virus that won’t be reimbursed in some way.”

Commissioner Tyson Burden said the machine will especially come in handy if there’s a second outbreak of the virus in the fall. If the hospital uses the Abbott machine, Burden said, there’s a 50 percent chance of a false negative.

“If we don’t have this, we’re just going to be sitting there not knowing what in the world we’re treating,” Burden said. “Are we treating a common cold, are we treating a strep infection or are we treating coronavirus? If the grant money pays for anything, it should pay for this.”

Burden continued, “And on top of that, it will roll into our cost report if we lease it in such a way that the allocation for it is not going to be significant. Obviously, I am strongly in favor of it. It is the gold standard.”

The commission voted to lease the GeneXpert, with everyone voting yes except Baranyk.

The commission then moved into a second special meeting focusing on the relationship between the commission and Alliance Management Group. Alliance Management Group agreed in November to be paid $40,000 a month for six months, and those six months are up. Burden said he’s not sure about some parts of the proposed contract to keep working with the group, which would last for five years.

Burden said he’s confused about a part of the proposed contract that says the manager will operate the hospital “profitably.” Since the commission is looking to set up a non-profit to run the hospital, Burden said, he’s not sure the hospital should be looking to make a profit.

“We need to direct Alliance in a way to understand that security to the commission is by far the most important element,” Burden said, “and not necessarily to make huge amounts of money.”

Parke said being profitable isn’t a bad thing.

“You can still be a profitable hospital and a not-for-profit hospital,” Parke said, “if you could get to 2 or 2.5 percent profit.”

Baranyk said he’s concerned about a part of the proposed contract that says the commission won’t manage day-to-day operations at the hospital.

“I wanted to make sure we had some input into the personnel and into the management,” Baranyk said, “because what all of us are worried about is being in a situation where the person managing takes over the hospital.”

“One of the challenges we face is to not micromanage the hospital,” House said. “The reason we bring in a management company … is because we trust them to do what they’re paid to do. It doesn’t mean we don’t get input.”

Baranyk said he’s not sure about the salary Alliance has requested, saying Alliance is asking for $30,000 a month and a monthly 7.5 percent bonus if the hospital meets its financial goals that month. Baranyk said he makes $165,000 a year as a doctor and compared his salary to the $360,000 being requested by Alliance.

“My problem is when management companies eclipse the amount of money made by physicians working in the area,” Baranyk said. “I think everything has gotten twisted in medicine just in general.”

The commission decided to wait to vote on the issue, scheduling a special meeting for Tuesday, June 2 to continue the discussion.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, June 15, at 25 Norris St.

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