Franklin County has turned to a seasoned hospital executive from Iowa to take over the reins at Weems Memorial Hospital, beginning Monday.

By unanimous consent, county commissioners Tuesday morning approved the recommendation of the Weems board of directors to hire Ray Brownsworth, 58, of Sigourney, Iowa.

The Weems board on Thursday turned to Brownsworth, who had emerged as number two on the list of 34 people who applied for the job. The top pick decided not to accept Weems’ initial offer.

“We have honed it down and we believe we made a good decision,” Tammi Hardy, Weems board chairman, told commissioners.

The board used a series of screenings tools tailored for the facility and its needs, and did the selection entirely on its own, including interviewing the finalists, said Hardy. Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, which has an affiliation agreement with Weems, assisted in the process by advertising the position, and by gathering and processing the applications.

Brownsworth, 54, is expected to make in the neighborhood of $150,000 annually, similar to what was paid his predecessor Davie Lloyd, who left in late 2011 after fewer than six months on the job. Lloyd’s interim replacement, Cindy Drapal, Weems’ chief nursing officer, had applied for the CEO job, but decided to leave her job at the hospital prior to the interviews.

Brownsworth, married to wife Lori, parents of a son and three daughters, most recently served as chief executive officer of the Keokuk County Health Center, a 25-bed county-owned Critical Access Hospital in a rural region of south central Iowa. Weems board members said they placed value on his experience with a Critical Access Hospital, similar in size to Weems. The Keokuk County hospital also has an affiliation with the University of Iowa Hospital Systems and a level IV Trauma Care Center.

Brownsworth served as Keokuk County CEO from Oct. 2007 until Jan. 2012, when the hospital’s board of trustees voted to terminate his contract. Weems officials said he was upfront in his interview with the philosophical differences that had led to his leaving the hospital, and they said they were confident he had the enthusiasm and experience to do well at Weems.

Prior to assuming the top job at the Keokuk County hospital, Brownsworth worked for five years at the Ottumwa Regional Health Center board, where he held the post of vice president of general services.

In March 2007, he and another hospital administrator were let go as part of a restructuring plan that the Ottumwa regional CEO said at the time was a way to better align expenses with revenue.

“These are friends and colleagues; excellent people,” he told the Ottumwa Courier. “We just don’t have the revenue to support those positions.”

A native of Enid, Okla., Brownsworth earned a bachelor’s of science from Oklahoma State University, with a major in wildlife ecology research, in 1980. In 1998, he earned a masters in business administration in health services administration from the University of Dallas.

Brownsworth arrival at Weems comes at a time the hospital is continuing to make headway on ongoing financial challenges.

In his report at Thursday’s board meeting, Comptroller Steve Lanier reported that Weems had caught up on about $350,000 in monies it owed for past salary payments TMH had made to Weems’ chief executive officer and chief nursing officer. Those two positions are the only two Weems’ jobs that are on the TMH payroll.; the rest of the employees receive their paychecks from employee leasing agency. All of Weems’ labor costs are p[aid for out of the hospital’s operating revenue.

Lanier said Weems has repaid TMH about $254,000 since April, after being 14 months behind in that payment, and now owe the Tallahassee health care system about $103,000.

Lanier said that Weems continues to make regular payments on $600,000 in loans that it received several years ago from the Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development. He said one of the loans has a $117,857 and the other $128,571, with plans to complete the payments by summer 2015.

Weems had a net loss of $107,677 in September, stemming from operation of the hospital, ambulance service and Weems East clinic, Lanier said.

But, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Weems has $945,464 in net income, Lanier said. This is because the hospital receives about $1.9 million in support from direct county subsidy, sales tax revenues and capital improvement monies, he said.

The county meets its state mandate by giving Weems about $42,000 a month in ad valorem tax proceeds to operate the ambulance service, and $10,000 per month to operate Weems East. The rest of the $1.8 million come from the health care sales tax.

“Before any subsidy, we will have a net loss of $935,000 through August 31,” said Lanier.

He reported that as of Sept. 19, Weems had $183,996 in its operating account, $359,261 in its money market account, and $7.2 million in the health-care sales tax trust fund for capital improvements.

Lanier said the hospital has collected 43 percent, a strong percentage, of its $14.2 million in accounts receivables, for a net of $6.1 million. He said Weems has an average daily patient census of 3.5 patients, and that Weems East is seeing 25 patients per day on average, or about 612 per month.

Self pay comprises 52 percent of hospital and clinic visits, while commercial insurance covers 25 percent of visits, Medicare 10 percent and the rest Medicaid and other payors.

The county commission’s plan passed last week to recoup $100,000 from Weems for what was estimated to be $1.2 million in monies the hospital owes the county was not warmly received by the Weems board of director.

“I was blindsided by this,” said Homer MacMillan, a Weems board member, later softening his words to say he and the entire board had been caught unaware of the plan by the county to slightly lower its millage rate by recouping monies owed by Weems.

“I respect the county’s investment, but before we can commit to a payment, I want to know what we owe,” said MacMillan.

“After the initial shock of it all, I’m curious where it comes from,” said Hardy. “This is the worst time for us. We were never aware there was a $1.5 million debt to the county.”

Commission Chair Pinki Jackel, who outlined the county’s decision to the Weems board, said the commissioners are aware of the need to maintain a good working relationship with Weems.

“We would like to see the hospital work towards chipping that debt down,” she said. “We’re all holding hands together.

“There needs to be a good feeling,” said Jackel. “It’ll be OK. We’ll work with you with good will. As far as the bookkeeping goes, we’ll work it out.”

Since last week’s meetings, Erin Griffith, the county’s assistant finance director, has been reviewing the records, and it appears that about $1.2 million is owed, dating back to late 2005 and 2006. DasSee Community Health Systems, the previous private sector operator, pulled out at the end of 2005, and an interim hospital manager, Blackhawk Healthcare LLC, was brought in in 2006 to run the hospital, before it was eventually taken over by the county.

Alan Pierce, county director of administrative services, said much of this roughly $1.2 million debt stems from the county having to make payroll on at least two occasions, as well as costs associated with monies owed the Medicare and Medicaid programs.