The documents behind a $15.4M question

Washington County Regional Medical Center (WCRMC) has steep financial challenges. That doesn’t make the rural hospital in Middle Georgia unique.

The solution proposed by recently appointed Hospital Authority members led by Chair Jim Croome, and, the Washington County Board of Commissioners (WCBOC), is to ask the county to approve a $ 15.4Million dollar bond.

The debt that citizens can choose to take on in a May referendum will fund $9M for infrastructure, IT, and computers at WCRMC. Property owners will have to decide if their personal budgets can stretch to take on more in property taxes to also give the hospital $6.4M to pay down debt, address pension plans, and general operations.

Last year the Washington County Tax Commissioner included a neon green insert with 2015 property tax bills stating that one mil of their taxes was being used for the hospital.

Last year county leaders could have chosen a course of action that might have made last week’s 2.5+ hours county commission meeting a lot shorter.

In late April 2015, county and hospital leaders had an option to improve operations and secure $5Million in capital improvements through an offer from University Hospital in Augusta. A management agreement already in effect between the two hospitals had already secured a $1Million line of credit for WCRMC.

University’s offer included a 20 year lease with an option for Washington County to sell the hospital if it decided that was the best course of action (University held first right of refusal. After that Washington County could pursue another buyer: page 3, University_proposal_to_WCRMC_April_29_2015). University guaranteed 24/7 Emergency Department operations, surgical and inpatient nursing services, and diagnostic and imaging services.

The lease proposal also stated that University, “will not seek any support from Washington County for the operation of WCRMC” during the first five years of the lease agreement (page 3, University Hospital offer to WCRMC April 2015).

University has already proven it can right-size a small hospital; just ask McDuffie County residents and patients at University McDuffie County Hospital.

Instead of saying “No thanks” to the offer, the Washington County Commissioners took a different tack, one that broke the management agreement with University and a retraction of their April offer.

County Attorney Tom_Rawlings hand-delivered letters on June 8th to local doctors inviting them to a private meeting with Navicent Health representatives from Macon to “structure a partnership with a larger hospital system.’ The meeting wasn’t planned for county offices or Rawlings’ office , both located on the high visibility Courthouse Square.

Instead, the June 8th meeting to discuss a possible relationship with Navicent was planned at Daniels Heating, Air, and Electrical just north of Sandersville, where cars travel pass at 55 MPH. The Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners is Horace Daniels.

While Navicent Health was planning a meeting with Washington County leaders and physicians, their 11 month old management arrangement with neighboring Oconee Regional Medical Center was spiraling towards a fatal crash.

The meeting Rawlings convened where the WCBOC Chair works violated the Management Agreement between University and WCRMC according to a letter dated June 12 from University’s CEO Jim Davis.

Davis closed his letter with, “We wish you and the Commissioners the best of luck in preserving a hospital in Washington County.”

Washington County leaders signed an agreement with University that secured a $1Million line of credit for our hospital. The organization that right-sized McDuffie County’s hospital proposed a 20 year lease agreement with $5Million of improvements to our struggling hospital. It did not include a request for $15.4Million in bond debt funded by Washington County property owners. It did include a restriction on future requests for taxpayer dollars.

Washington County needs a good hospital. Voters should have an opportunity to read the documents that brought us to a $15.4Million bond referendum in May. As I work through more documents I’ll post them here.

About Katherine Helms Cummings

During the day I am a social and environmental activist whose professional work has been in the nonprofit world for the last 12 years. Most nights and weekends I am an artisan making accessories with upcycled cashmere and woven textiles. My handmade items are available at The Sassy Gal http://thesassygal.org
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3 Responses to The documents behind a $15.4M question

  1. Pingback: Contracts, consultants, and hotel bills | Rural and Progressive

  2. Tom Rawlings says:

    Kathryn, I’m not sure where you are coming up with this idea that we “violated the management agreement’ with University by talking to Navicent. We were just trying to find a partner for our hospital. As you should already know, University agreed in December 2014 to manage our hospital in for five years in exchange for a significant monthly payment. In February 2015, University informed the hospital authority that they were going to walk out on that deal unless the county agreed to pony up $2 million a year in subsidies. Additionally, their proposed revision of the deal would have allowed them to buy our hospital and its very valuable ECF at any time for $1 and shut it down. University’s Jim Davis told the hospital authority to take that deal or leave it and refused to negotiate. That new deal was so bad that the Hospital authority rejected it without even presenting it to the Commissioners. The meetings with Navicent took place after the University deal was already dead. If you want to see the original agreement negotiated by Jimmy Childre between the hospital authority and University — an agreement he paid an outside attorney $50K to “negotiate” and that University reneged on within 90 days from the time it was signed — I’m sure we can get you a copy. Since you are so concerned about how the hospital got into its current state, did you also do an open records request for Childre’s expenses? I’m sure you would find his almost-monthly stays at the Ritz Carlton at Lake Oconee and the $3000 he spent staying at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA while the hospital was going down the tubes to be a wonderful use of public monies.

    • Mildred Adolphus says:

      Government officials have traveled to various resorts on taxpayers’ money for a number of “conferences” and “workshops. ”
      I am sure you have attended your share, Mr. Rawlings.
      The commissioners appear to have a particular animus toward Mr. Childre. The hospital needs help not extortion from our officials, who had not one seconds hesitation asking for $16M to replace a jail less than half the age of the hospital.
      The citizens of Washington County can ts keep their sick and injured there for medical help?
      The commissioners want to politicize the hospital board. In fact they have. Why? What do they gain?