Franklin County commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to extend for six-months the management agreement it has with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital to partner with Weems Memorial Hospital.
But with this unanimous vote came with a lot of dissatisfaction with the current administration and the Weems board of directors.
“I’m willing to give them six months and at the same time have one payroll for the CEO,” said Commissioner Noah Lockley. “I want his check to come out of the same coffers as everybody else’s. (He) makes the big bucks, why they getting all these extra benefits for? This man gets paid big bucks, he ain’t showing no initiative where he’s trying. Cooper needs to tighten up.”
As it stands now, the annual salary of Weems CEO Mike Cooper, $150,000, is paid for out of Weems revenue, although he is an employee of TMH, and not of the leasing company that handles the checks for the rest of the hospital employees. Weems presently owes TMH several hundred thousand dollars in monies it has advanced for Cooper’s salary.
“We’re in a dilemma here,” said Commissioner Cheryl Sanders. “I don’t have a problem with continuing TMH’s contract but I have no confidence in Mr. Cooper. But I do have confidence in TMH.
“I don’t know how we’re going to rectify that problem. There’s other people out there that can do this,” she said. “I want them to basically know that there is a couple commissioners that don’t have confidence in Mr. Cooper.”
Commissioner William Massey said his biggest issue is that there is a disconnect between the hospital board, the county commissioners and Cooper.
“We tell him one thing and they tell him one thing. Who’s in charge?” he said. “I think we need to have a workshop for the board members we have at the hospital and find out who’s actually in charge.”
Massey said he would like to see a “time and motion report” to give commissioners a better idea of where Cooper is throughout the work, and the duties he’s completing.
“He has nobody to report to,” he said. “I’d like to sit down with the hospital board and see what’s going down.”
In his report, County Coordinator Michael Morón said that there were at least three vacancies on the hospital board, with only two members, Hank Kozlowsky, representing District 1, and Duffie Harrison, an at-large member, serving in unexpired terms.
The others, Anne Wilson for District 2, Robert Davis for District 3, Jim Bachrach for District 4, and Doug Creamer for District 5, were all serving in expired terms, with a vacancy with the second at-large seat. Morón said.
In his report, Morón said he and County Attorney Michael Shuler had met with Mark O’Bryant, TMH’s CEO, the Capital Regional Medical Center CEO, and the chairman of the board of Sacred Heart in Port St. Joe to discuss their interest in Weems. He said the talks are ongoing.
In remarks to the commissioners, Allan Feifer, head of the Concerned Citizens of Franklin, said commissioners should revisit the instructions they’ve given their two representatives, particularly regarding the building of a new hospital.
He said in his conversations with Roger Hall, president of Sacred Heart, he was told that Sacred Heart delivered $1.5 million in health care last year to Franklin County residents, and employs 25 people from Franklin County.
“They are the major health care provider ion Franklin County today,” Feifer said. “I don’t know that anybody’s going to build us a new hospital. Sacred Heart may have an entirely different approach. It’s been over 10 years since we had a vote on building a new hospital; we’re nowhere near that today. The whole situation of health care in this county has changed.
“Don’t hamstring them (Morón and Shuler),” he said. “There may be better alternatives, with better health outcomes. Please revisit the instructions they’ve been given so we can innovate instead of have this experiment turn into a stillborn event.”
Feifer said 80 percent of health care is now being delivered outside the county at a time when specialization is the watchword. “We can’t compete with that kind of technology,” he said. “We can embrace what’s out there.”
At the otuset of the discussion, Sanders secured approval from her fellow commissioners to have Morón look into how neighboring counties handle their emergency services, which has long been under the Weems umbrella, as well as whether the sheriff’s office would be interested in taking it over.
“In any of these discussions was it brought to anyone’s attention what they would do regarding the ambulance service?” she asked Morón. “How do they foresee the ambulance service with the operation of the hospital service?”
Morón said neither Capital Regional nor Sacred Heart manage an ambulance service.
“My concern is we’ve always had it consolidated into one,” Sanders said. “We need to look at ambulance too. We got to look out for these EMS people.
“We need to look out for these folks because these folks are looking out for us,” she said.
Commissioner Ricky Jones noted that probably fewer than a half-dozen counties in the state have hospital-based emergency medical services.