A Message from the BCMH Board of Trustees:
In an effort to address questions being raised about Barton County Memorial Hospital joining with CoxHealth and the property tax for BCMH, this article contains some additional information.
The BCMH Board of Trustees and leadership team took important steps to weather the current health care environment. One of these steps was to ask the residents of Barton County to increase their property tax funding through a vote of the public in April 2015.
The proposed property tax increase in 2015 was for the “maintenance, improvement and operation of the hospital and for constructing and furnishing necessary additions thereto.” The property tax will continue to be used for this purpose.
Even with the tax increase and the dramatic cuts at the hospital, our hospital continued to lose money. In addition to the cuts in reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies, we were unable to cut costs enough to break even.
The health care environment has been very tough for hospitals in rural areas. Government payments to hospitals have been cut drastically and that has caused rural hospitals to close. According to the National Rural Health Association, 75 rural hospitals in the U.S. have closed and nearly 700 more are at risk for closure. We were also in a situation where we couldn’t recruit physicians to a hospital which was losing money and whose future was in doubt. Larger hospitals and health systems with more resources can adjust to these pressures. Rural hospitals with limited resources have to look for other options.
Fortunately, the Board of Trustees had the vision to seek a larger health system to partner with to secure the hospital’s future. Our job is to make sure the hospital stays open to serve our community. We have been doing all we can to use our resources carefully, but it wasn’t enough. We had to look at the option of joining with a partner that understands the importance of this hospital being here into the future. Partnering with CoxHealth will not only let us survive, but to grow services and staffing.
By combining the strength of CoxHealth and BCMH we believe we can expand services in Barton County, find new efficiencies, and bring new resources to the community that wouldn’t be possible for a standalone hospital. These include physician recruiting, financial support, efficiency of scale possible through a larger system and administrative support resources such as regulatory, quality, marketing and more. However, even with these benefits, it is unlikely that the hospital will be able to financially maintain itself without the continued tax support from its citizens.
Most importantly, partnering with CoxHealth will allow BCMH to grow which benefits the community. CoxHealth will develop a plan to recruit more physicians and add employees and services.
The first step in this process was to sign a letter of intent, which is a non-binding agreement that allows CoxHealth and Barton County Memorial Hospital to move forward as the organizations pursue a final agreement. This step was completed on October 9, 2017 and followed by a public announcement.
CoxHealth and BCMH will go through a process of due diligence during which time each party will examine all aspects of the proposed agreement. Certain governmental approvals may be required. The two parties will work toward executing a final agreement as soon as possible with a goal of closing by the end of the year.
The proposal is for CoxHealth to lease the hospital building and all of its assets from BCMH and assume the operations of the hospital. All BCMH employees would become CoxHealth employees. The agreement is structured in a fashion that retains the property tax, as it is essential to the continued operation of the hospital.
CoxHealth’s approach to similar agreements has been to limit disruptions to the operations of the organizations that join them and approach changes in a measured and thoughtful manner. They value the engaged and committed employees and medical staff at BCMH. Together our plan is to grow the hospital operation and in turn, BCMH employees in good standing can expect to continue growing with us. BCMH has a hard-working and dedicated leadership team that we intend to retain and bolster. We also plan to honor all physician contracts and assist with recruiting new talent, including primary and specialty care physicians.
BCMH patients may continue to receive care at BCMH and, if a transfer or referral is necessary, may choose to be transferred or referred to whomever the patient may choose. The agreement between BCMH and CoxHealth will not affect where patients receive care.
The BCMH Board of Trustees is very excited about the partnership with CoxHealth. We truly believe this partnership is in the best interest of our community and will ensure Barton County residents have access to high quality health care for years to come.
As we continue working through this process, we will release additional information as it becomes available. Please contact Wendy Duvall at BCMH if you have any concerns or questions.