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Hospital plans meetings

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

WaKEENEY -- At least two more community meetings are planned to discuss the financial situation facing Trego County's hospital.

The meetings are set for 7 p.m. Monday and Jan. 31 in the Western Electric Cooperative meeting room in WaKeeney.

The Trego County-Lemke Memorial Hospital is looking to receive $1.8 million in no-fund warrants issued by the Trego County Commission. That money would be repaid during the next four years, a move that will require a county mill levy of approximately 8 mills or more, depending on how much interest is charged.

The hospital's also receiving a larger allocation from the county with the start of 2013. Previously, Trego County provided approximately $135,000 to the hospital but boosted the amount to more than $200,000 this year.

Commissioners also are looking at boosting the county mill levy dedicated to the hospital to 5 mills, the full amount allowed by law. That would generate approximately $265,000.

Hospital Administrator Harold Courtois, in a meeting last week with commissioners, also inquired about moving ahead with a 1-percent sales tax.

An election on the sales tax likely will be by mail ballot, but a date has not been set.

Details about the hospital's financial situation remain murky, even though there's been an apparent shortfall of approximately $600,00 when Medicare reimbursements unexpectedly were reduced.

That's since been adjusted back up, but remains slightly below what it was.

Courtois said the hospital already has cut its expenses by approximately $700,000 and planned to continue reducing costs.

"If we can get more, we will," he said. "But I'm not going to compromise patient care."

Employment at the hospital, he told commissioners, is down the equivalent of 20 full-time employees.

At that Jan. 14 meeting, commissioners were told the hospital's cash-flow position remains tight, and creditors still are being patient on approximately $773,000 in bills due.

While a proposed sales tax is being considered at the behest of the hospital, commissioners said its being viewed as a health care sales tax. That way, Commissioner Dean Papes said, some of the money could be shifted to the county's health department once the hospital gets back on solid financial footing.

Courtois said the hospital needs a commitment it will be getting $700,000.

"If not, I need to know," he said.

"Were going to take care of you," Commission Chairman Herb Schwartzkopf said. "We just don't want to be locked in."