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Debt grows as WaKeeney hospital waits for money

3/13/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

WaKEENEY -- Money to let WaKeeney's hospital settle its outstanding bills will become available April 1, Trego County commissioners told hospital officials.

The bonds to raise the $1.8 million being sought have been purchased by WaKeeney banks.

"Everything should be done," Commission Chairman Dean Papes said Monday. "We should have the money on April 1."

Hospital officials are anxious to get the money, telling commissioners the outstanding bills now exceed $1 million.

Trego County-Lemke Memorial Hospital administrator Harold Courtois said by April 1, it's possible the outstanding bills will match the $1.1 million that was due when the hospital outlined its dire financial situation with commissioners.

In response, commissioners agreed to issue $1.8 million in no-fund warrants -- $1.1 million to pay outstanding bills and the remaining amount to pay an expected annual shortfall.

Commissioners also agreed to put a 1-percent sales tax before Trego County voters, a mail-in election that is under way.

Ballots must be returned by noon Tuesday and are expected to be counted the same day, Trego County Clerk Lori Augustine told commissioners and hospital officials.

Courtois and other hospital executives met with commissioners Monday, a regular monthly meeting.

"January was an extremely busy month for us," he said, something borne out by financial statements presented to commissioners.

That report showed January to be profitable.

But, Gail Jensen, the hospital's chief operating officer, said there have been delays in payments from KanCare -- the state's Medicaid program.

Two of the three contractors -- United and Sunflower -- haven't paid anything, she said.

"That's just on the long-term care side," Courtois said. "They just weren't ready. They could have taken six months or a year to get everything together."

The hospital is seeking expedited payments.

He's also expecting cuts to come from the federal sequestration, a cut that's expected to total 2.5 percent of total Medicare reimbursements.

"Truthfully, I don't know what the sequestration is going to do for us," he said.

The hospital's already budgeted for the projected cuts, even as they hope they don't take place. If projections hold true, he said, the sequestration cuts could exceed $100,000.

"It's not going to kill us," Courtois said. "It's going to hurt, but it's not going to kill us.

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While the principal amount on the no-fund warrants is $1.8 million, interest will add another $115,627 to the total, which must be repaid during the next four years. Annual payments will total $478,900.

Interest rates varied dramatically.

Citizens State Bank purchased $400,000 in bonds, charging 1.75 percent interest, $17,652.

Trego-WaKeeney State Bank and Stockton National Bank purchased the remaining $1.4 million, charging 2.76 percent interest, $97,975.