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Grant County commissioners hear reports on hospital, other county reports

During the rest of county reports at the Grant County commissioners' work session Tuesday morning, commissioners heard a report on progress at the hospital.

Gila Regional Medical Center Interim Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham gave an update on the hospital. "I want to be clear that the information I give you each month is based on the most recent Board of Trustees meeting. I also want you to know that we have a month lag in finances. The report given at the meeting the end of September was for the closeout from August."


"We are in the 60-to-90-day phase of our strategic turnaround," Cunningham said. "Then we will have a strategic approach for 120, 150 and 180 days.

"The first 30 days were to get leadership in place and caregivers in proper alignment by needs," he continued. "The second phase was education and data analysis. Now in the third phase, we are starting some major changes to the revenue cycle. The health care cycle is complicated. The patient gets a referral to the hospital, gets registered, gets service, and it has to be accurate at every step. Then the documents are sent to coding, where accuracy is critical. Once it gets to billing, it goes to insurance companies and to the patients. If it all doesn't happen in a timely manner, if there are mistakes, for instance, the documents get returned, and if we can't correct them in a timely manner, we lose reimbursement. We have done an assessment of the process. At any point in time, we have millions held up in the processes. If the processes are not tight, we will leave millions of dollars uncollected, so we have to have a first-class revenue process."

Cunningham said the real work of the turnaround is in the 60-to-90-day phase. "Preliminary data show that we have the opportunity to bring back significant revenue to the organization. The good news is the opportunity is there. It is our commitment to pull the revenue back into the hospital. We are also beginning improvements to throughput. We named a new Surgical Service Director, Judy Gould, an internal candidate. We are working on efficiencies of throughput in surgeries. We need to continue to decrease costs and increase revenues."

"I appreciate the work you're doing," Commissioner Ron Hall said. "I think you're going in the right direction."

"We are still in the middle of the transition," Cunningham said. "Our strategic approach to staffing levels will continue. We will evaluate and assess our needs to rightsize the departments. In some departments, there may be an increase in caregivers and a decrease in others, but it will be a strategic decision, based on workload and efficiencies.  We are doing what other industries are doing to rightsize the departments."

"We appreciate your having the foresight to realize the possibility of sole community provider funding going away," Commission Chairman Brett Kasten said. "We encourage people to join the exchanges, so the hospital can get reimbursed."

"Hidalgo Medical Services is way ahead of us," Cunningham said. "We support what they have already started."

The next report was given by Sheriff Raul Villanueva, who said his department has one open position that will be posted internally first before making it public. "We have had a big difference in transports the past month with Mike helping us with the local transports. We also thank Earl for fixing our potholes. We had volunteers at the fair."

"Your guys did a great job at the fair," Kasten said. "They were visible and helpful."

Treasurer Steve Armendariz said he has been working on mobile home activities. "Statewide a committee is establishing guidelines on how the treasurers will go after delinquent mobile home properties. We have close to half a million dollars in delinquent taxes on mobile homes. It's an issue statewide. When we go to a sale, and a mobile home doesn't sell, we can immediately do a secondary sale. There is some interest from recycling companies wanting to buy them in the first sale at the minimum bid. We have issued several of the new moving certificates, and people are learning about them and understanding them."  He said there is still a problem transferring numbers from the assessor's office to the treasurer's office, but it seems to be a software glitch that the software provider is working on.

Assessor Mary Guthrie had no report.

Clerk Robert Zamarripa said the election season has begun. "Candidate guides are available in the office and also on the website for a pdf download. This year, we will have elections for commissioner district 1, commissioner district 2, assessor, sheriff and probate judge. March 11 is the sign up date. Next month, we will have a resolution on the polling places for the primary and general elections. We want to use the polling convenience centers like last time and will add a couple, including one in the Cliff schools. "

Kasten said the one at the Grant County Veterans' Memorial Business and Conference Center would not be torn up, as it was last election.

"That one is the best, because of the easy parking," Zamarripa said.

County Manager Jon Paul Saari, during his report, said the front of the Administration Center is close to being completed. "The fair barn is great. The Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan is in, although they keep asking for documents in different formats—hard copy and digital.  We're still working on getting the agreement for the $300,000 allocated for the Sheriff's Department vault. It went to Silver City, (Mayor) James (Marshall) sent it to me, but I had to send it back to Department of Finance and Administration because it should have been in the bond sale, but wasn't. We're still trying to get the money. We have our representatives and senator working on getting it and more to complete the project."

He reported the auditors had completed their work and were writing up the final report to submit to the state. "We should have no problem making the Nov. 15 deadline. It didn't seem like they had any issues."

"We are already starting to gear up for the legislative session by attending interim committee meetings," Saari said. "It will be a fast and furious 30-day session."

Kasten said the Road Department Yard was getting full of vehicles. "A local contractor wants to do an auction. Maybe we can piggyback on it. We need to get that inventory and vehicles from other departments sold and bring some money back in."

Hall said he wanted to bring up the inmate support program and what the detention center is trying to do to turn the inmates around and get them off drugs, so they become productive in the community. "I hope we can piggyback with the detox program."

"I'm pretty excited about the bike program to lessen traffic and get employees on bikes to get to work," Hall said. "It's a healthy activity."

Detention Center Administrator Mike Carrillo said the inmate support program group would meet with the DWI coordinator on a program just for females to get them prepared to go back into the community.

Kasten said he appreciated GRMC working with HMS to get people signed up for the exchanges.

"Thanks to everyone who worked on the fair barn," Kasten said. "And before I adjourn, I want to say that we expect to lose more federal funds next year."

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