Letter to Editor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Letter to the editor

Trustee cites recent hardships, writes to clear up questions about Tri-Lakes

I am writing you this letter in support of Tri-Lakes Medical Center, and to state to you some of the reasons why Tri-Lakes is experiencing some hardships at the present time.  I will also try to give you reasons why I believe the hospital will weather this storm and come out on the other side as a strong and viable hospital with more capacity to serve than ever before.

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I was asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the hospital and agreed to do so because I want to help make this one of the best hospitals in North Mississippi.   If I did not think this to be a possibility, I would not have agreed to serve.  

Barry Morrison is the new hospital administrator.  I have the utmost confidence in him and believe him to be a man of high character and believe that he is the man to lead us through this period of difficulty.  Since January of 2007, the hospital has focused on improving patient care.  We have done this through taking better care of the patients, and by recruiting new physicians and surgeons to the staff. These staff additions will allow us to add additional services, which will also serve the community better.

However, since January of 2007, the hospital has encountered several things that have caused financial hardships.   First of all, in January of 2007, Medicaid began a 50-percent cutback on the amount that they reimburse the hospital for services. In May, Medicare severely restricted behavioral health outpatient programs for Medicare patients.  On August 1, 2007, all Medicaid outpatient behavioral programs have been completely cut off.  In previous periods these outpatient services had accounted for as much as 25-percent of hospital revenue.   We also had a very unfavorable relationship with an outside vendor who was supposed to improve billing and collections but actually did the opposite.

I might also add that Tri-Lakes Medical center has a very high percentage of their billings for their services which do not get paid.  Most hospitals have about 6-percent of their gross billings that are never paid.  Tri-Lakes has about 12 to 13-percent of gross revenue that is health care given to the community for which we do not get paid.

Any one of the things that I have mentioned would be enough to severely harm the financial condition of a hospital.  At Tri-Lakes we are weathering the storm.  We are “keeping on keeping on.”  The doctors and staff are still serving the community.  I have a very high level of confidence in this new administration.  Barry Morrison, Dr. Corkern and all the other doctors, and all the staff of Tri-Lakes will continue to add new services and improve the patient care until we are one of the best hospitals in Mississippi.

I hope this letter helps to clear up some of the questions that the community may have.  I would be glad to discuss with you or any Panola County citizen any other questions that you may have.  Together we can make this work.  

Thank you for the opportunity to share my opinions and thoughts.

/s/Raymond Belk