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Profitability questions raised at Cleburne hospital board meeting

Hopkins Cleburne

Dan Hopkins, left, a longtime member of the Cleburne County Hospital Board, receives a certificate of appreciation from board chairman Christie Shelton at a board meeting Tuesday night.

HEFLIN   In an effort to make the Cleburne County Nursing Home profitable during the pandemic, management at the facility has been making staffing cuts, reducing hours and implementing other cost-saving measures.

Shawn Estes, the nursing home administrator, gave a detailed report Tuesday night during the Cleburne County Hospital Board meeting.

Estes said the census on Tuesday of nursing home residents at the facility was 58 while in July of 2020 the census was 75. In December, the number of full-time employees at the nursing home was 100. Estes said as of Tuesday the facility has 89 full-time employees.

“We’ve had some quit, we’ve had some terminated,” said Estes.

Employees' hours have also been cut to save money, according to Estes. For example, he said, on the weekends an employee worked overtime to screen persons entering the nursing home’s front door at a cost of $2,000 a month.

“It’s a small amount but that’s what we’re doing, we’re trying to go through each and every little nook and cranny where we’re trying to save money,” said Estes.

Estes said now the duties of screening visitors will be done by a pool of other employees who will take time off during the week which will not create any overtime.

Estes said the nursing home is now saving $30,000 per month by decreasing hours for employees, cutting positions and making adjustments to staffing models for weekend employees. 

“Here’s where we are, we’re coming out of COVID, we’ve lost a lot of money and we have to be able to recover now at this time,” said Estes.

“Nursing expenditures are $25,000 under budget for the month of February, that’s amazing,” he said, comparing that to the month of December when the nursing home was $52,000 over budget.

“We were able to reduce the expenses in January but we were still over budget by $30,000,” said Estes.

 Estes added that in February expenses were under budget by $11,816, creating a $40,000 swing in expenses.

Estes said the position of assistant administrator and medical records position were eliminated.

“The cuts made to administration will save $130,000 a year,” said Estes. 

Estes said that employees have to take on a dual role now.

“You’ve got to prove value for me somewhere else,” he said.

Estes said the medical records position duties were given to another employee who he termed as a “go-getter” 

 “As far as our assistant administrator, once again, [that person] was wonderful, did great work but at that point I knew from my experience coming forward I knew I would be able to handle that position,” Estes said.

Another cost-cutting measure discussed by both Estes and the board on the advice of the board’s auditor, Bart McCurley,was the possibility of cutting employees’ health insurance premiums.

Currently the nursing home pays for 100 percent of employees’ individual health insurance cost (family coverage is extra for employees).

Estes floated the idea of reducing the amount the nursing home pays to 75 percent.

Estes said the nursing home could save $206,405.25 per year by cutting employees’ benefits.

Estes said that nothing can be off the table when making cuts.

“I love the fact that we were paying 100 percent, but if we’re looking at ways that we can make Cleburne County Nursing Home profitable I have to bring this up,” Estes said.

Board member Sherry Brown asked if the reduction in benefits would affect the employees at Cleburne County EMS.

Tracy Lambert, Cleburne County EMS director, said he hopes the measure would not affect his employees, adding he has not made a hire in the last eight years.

“If y’all want to do the cuts at the nursing home that’s fine, but please do not cut my guys because it’s not fair for us to get cut when we’re busting our butts every single day,” Lambert said.

Board chairman Christie Shelton said the financial numbers given to the board from McCurley must be evaluated. 

“He’s given us the information, we’re responsible for the knowledge we know, so then we have to figure out what it is we want to do with the knowledge that he’s given us to show what we can save by addressing this,” Shelton said.

Shelton posed the question whether Cleburne County Nursing Home was the only facility paying 100 percent of employees’ health care premiums in the area with a comparable salary.

“Are we really doing something that we should do or shouldn't do ... I know that those people that make the least would hurt the most but are they hurting at Lineville, are they hurting at Piedmont, are they hurting at other places because they don’t pay 100 percent?” Shelton asked.

 “It's a new day and everything is on the table,” Shelton said.

In other business Shelton recognized longtime board member Dan Hopkins who resigned in December by presenting him with a framed certificate of appreciation.

Shelton also announced that board member Chris Brown resigned and she read his resignation letter. 

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Estes said that visitation restrictions at the nursing home have continued to ease up.

Starting last week residents who have had their last vaccinations can have 1-2 visitors in the facility if two weeks has passed since their second injection. Previously visits could only be on the facilities screened-in porch at the rear of the facility.  

According to Stephanie Hamer, director of nursing, families are not required to be vaccinated to visit but masks must be worn.

Hamer said the family visitations are a sign that things are slowly getting back to normal.

“We’re so excited, it’s been such a rough year and we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Hamer said.

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.