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County to weigh terms of Alliant deal

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

The Franklin County commission now has before it a management services contract for Weems Memorial Hospital that if adopted, would add a little more than $200,000 per year in costs to run the facility.

Jim Coleman

Jim Coleman Jr. chief executive officer for Alliant Management Services, a Louisville, Kentucky based management company specializing in small rural and critical access hospitals, shared with county commissioners the terms of a proposed threee-year management proposal that would make Alliant responsible for financial, operational and clinical oversight for Weems.

County Coordinator Michael Moron said that over the past several months the deal has been shaped by Coleman, together with interim Weems CEO David Walker and County Attorney Michael Shuler.

"We kind of narrowed down the contract for your comments and your direction," said Moron.

The deal calls for Alliant to complete a host of services in exchange for a $17,500 monthly fee. The salaries for the hospital CEO and the chief financial office were no longer included in the initial proposed fee, which last year was set in the $28,000 per month range.

In its terms, the salaries and benefits for the CEO and CFO would be a a pass-through expense. Alliant would agree to provide an interim facility administrator in the event of any transition, also as  a pass-through expense. Coleman said that one provision - which said that in the event the county cut short the agreement and kept the CEO and CFO, it would owe Alliant $50,000 and $30,000, respectively - would not apply to Walker or CFO Bill Storck, but only individuals that Alliant might hire in the future.

As part of its accountability for the day-to-day operations of the hospital, Alliant representatives would attend all hospital board meetings, provide board education including strategic planning retreats, assist with the annual CEO evaluation including annual compensation review and host an annual governance retreat available to all board members and CEOs. 

Coleman said Alliant would provide operations support to the CEO via the company's regional CEO/CFO positions, and establish bi-weekly calls and monthly meetings with the CEO. Alliant would conduct monthly operations reviews with Weems senior leadership team, host an annual retreat for them, provide monthly operations reviews and conduct employee engagement surveys every other year with Press Ganey.

Alliant proposed an array of financial management services, including monitoring  monthly financial performance, analyzing accounts receivable analysis, performing interim cost reports and filing the annual cost report, along with general oversight of all financials.

Alliant would perform a comprehensive hospital operations assessment and assist with Joint Commission or other accrediting assessment and preparation, as well as leadership development.

In terms of human resources, Alliant would analyze executive compensation, wage and salary administration and benefits, provide legal updates for senior leadership, and arrange for group purchasing services.

Shuler said the deal would allow for a 90-day escape hatch, without cost or damages, if either side wished to terminate the deal.

"Everyone would pay their own attorney fees," he said. He also noted that there would be a condition that would send disputes to mediation before going to circuit court.

Coleman said he is expecting there not to be additional services added to and billed for under the management arrangement.

"It would have to be an extraordinary and unusual event and the county would not be charged if the board didn’t ask for it," he said. "There would be negotiations

"We serve as resource and bench strength," he stressed.

Coleman said Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, which recently hired a new Weems doctor, Dr. David Newton, will provide "very aggressive and comprehensive physician support" for the new doctor, who will oversee both clinics, with his compensation coming out of Weems revenues.

He said Alliant offers $1.5 million in purchasing power, and that supply costs would likely drop 10 to 15 percent in the future for the 25-bed hospital.

"It's a new day for health care in Franklin County," said Commissioner Bert Boldt. "We're at a pivot point. The hospital is our anchor, and we need more medical professionals in Franklin County."

Walker said the proposed deal "will allow us to grow. We need to provide services to reduce travel time (for patients) to Tallahassee and Panama City. We need to begin to think how we provide that.

"We feel comfortable," he said. "We're really excited, this is a new day for health care. We're looking to grow our services and not just stay pat."

Coleman touted the new deal, which will come before the commissioners to be voted on next month. "It's going to be a new time and a new era," he said. "David (Walker) has done a great job. I see a big difference in the appearance of this hospital. I think it's going to be a great partnership."

Commissioner Noah Lockley also voiced support for the proposal. "I believe good things are going to happen and that’s what we need," he said. "Once they see us working we can put that brick-and-mortar into action. That’s what we need, a new hospital and we're working on that."

Commissioners Ricky Jones and Smokey Parrish reserved comment, and both asked for it to be looked at at the Oct. 6 meeting.