O’Keef excited for the future after significant growth in physical therapy

Melissa Memorial Hospital’s physical therapy department will soon be experiencing some growing pains, but that’s a good thing.

Daniel O’Keef, physical therapy director, gave an update Monday, Jan. 6, at a regular meeting of the East Phillips County Hospital District Board of Directors. He said that the department has experienced huge growth in 2019. Within the next six months to a year, it will need to seriously consider how to shuffle things around to make space for three full-time physical therapists and one full-time occupational therapist.

O’Keef has been full of ideas for the department since he began the role last July, and he’s excited to finally have the manpower to make some of those ideas take shape. New hire Scott Jeppson, a physical therapist from a small town in Utah who is fluent in Spanish, will be starting soon, in addition to a new full-time occupational therapist, Amanda Wyscarver.

O’Keef gave some comparisons to demonstrate the significant growth in the department. For example, they saw 251 patients in December 2019 compared to 117 in December 2018. The department’s revenue was also up 62% in 2019 over the prior year.

He said consistency has been key in building the department’s reputation throughout the region. He finished by sincerely thanking the board for their support over the last several months.


Leadership takes action due to decrease in utilization

Chief Financial Officer Wes White reported that MMH experienced a significant decrease in utilization in November and December with an anticipated net operating loss for each month.

In response to that, a short-term management action plan was developed. The MAP was presented to the senior leaders and department managers Dec. 13 and to medical staff Dec. 18.

White said a more comprehensive MAP is also being developed to respond to the decrease in utilization experienced during the fourth quarter of 2019 in hopes of restoring the hospital to a positive total margin in 2020.

In his November financial report that was presented Monday, White said MMH finished the month with 76 operating days cash on hand, which is down one from 77 days in October. The hospital has been out of compliance in this area since July, with the goal of getting it back up to 100 days.

He noted the MMH income statement showed a net loss of $337,038 for November. The year-to-date net loss was $440,632.


Hickenlooper to visit MMH

In her administrator update, Interim CEO Cathy Harshbarger invited the board to MMH Thursday, Jan. 9, at 11:30 a.m. when former Gov. John Hickenlooper will be paying the hospital a visit. Discussions will be centered around how small rural hospitals can attract providers and employees.

Harshbarger also reported that MMH is researching a new price transparency law that went into effect in Colorado Jan. 1.

Additionally, MMH is working with the state to report utilization numbers as the state works on rate setting.

Harshbarger was happy to report that the Londa Wernet Bradford Cancer Center’s first chemotherapy patients are beginning treatments in January.

She was also pleased to tell the board Dr. Terry Dunn was recently hired for urology and gynecology.

In her report from the MMH Foundation, Harshbarger said they are busy preparing for the Legacy Event Feb. 8. A recent burst in table sales has brought the total to 37 out of 48 possible tables.

MMHF is also participating in the Pink Out at the Friday, Jan. 10, basketball games, which will raise funds for a 3D mammography machine.

There is currently a vacancy on the foundation board, as well.


Looka addresses board about CEO search

Lane Looka, a nurse practitioner at MMH, used the public comment portion of the meeting to present a prepared letter to the board. During the “delicate transition” that MMH will be experiencing as it searches for a new CEO, he wanted to publicly acknowledge Harshbarger as a potential candidate for the position.

“She not only has the tools but the experience to take MMH through the transition and into the future,” Looka said. He urged the board to consider someone who has already brought value to MMH before bringing in a stranger to the organization.


Credentials approved

The board approved creditials for 10 initial applications and five reappointment applications; however, board member Gary Rahe requested more detailed information be passed on to him in the future because there was some confusion about some of the applications.

Initial applications approved were for Zachary Hartman, M.D., for general surgery; Bridget Beck, M.D., Jennifer Jarvie, M.D., Sameer Mehta, M.D., Bradley Nelson, M.D., Christopher Stees, D.O., Vijay Subbarao, M.D., and Michael Wahl, M.D., for telecardiology; and Harry Siegele, M.D., and Michele Siegele, M.D., for telepsychiatry.

Reappointments included Maysun Ali, M.D., telecardiology; Derek Doorn, DNP, nurse practitioner; Dennis Jelden, M.D., family medicine; Maurice Lyons, D.O., cardiothoracic surgery; and Michael Stone, M.D., oncology/hematology.


Other business

In other business at the Jan. 6 meeting, the board:

— Appointed Harshbarger to the MMH Corporation Board.

— Heard a Quality Committee report for November from Jenn Cano, BSN, director of quality/IP. She said they have really been focusing on getting annual wellness visit numbers up. The next focus will be on the chronic care management program.

— Reviewed Policy 4.0 regarding governance commitment and Policy 4.1 regarding governing style and values.

— Approved a motion to pay rent on a house through the month of February that former CEO Trampas Hutches was renting.

— Held a 53-minute executive session for personnel.

— Announced special meetings are set for Jan. 7, 13 and 14 for the purpose of interviewing potential CEO candidates.



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