Money and space Challenge Rural Health
The Beaver Island Rural Health Center Board confronted some urgency issues at its July meeting Tuesday the 16th. Chief among them was a budget gap for the coming fiscal year beginning October 1, and a reexamination of the plans for the new Health Center building.
The Board discussion was driven by the report of the first month's work of the consultant recently hired to study the operation of the Health Center. Among her assignments was to determine whether the Health Center could qualify as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which could both increase reimbursements for patient care and bring federal grants to supplement operating budgets. The conclusion: the BIRHC could not come close to qualifying because we do not have an "underserved population" or enough Medicade of Medicare patients. The data collected by the consultant showed that out of the total 2,600 patient visits in 2001, 85% were by permanent residents, 11% were by seasonal residents, and only 4% were by visitors, a number of them guests of Island residents. Some good news for the Board is that we now have comprehensive data about where our patients come from and who pays the bills for them. This intelligence will help greatly in future facility and personnel planning.
The consultant's report also dominated the Board's review of the draft budget for 2003, which must be submitted to the Townships for their August meetings. At this point in the budget planning there is a gap of $60,000 to $75,000 between income and expenses, created largely by the prospect of a sharp reduction in the dollars the State of Michigan expects to provide this coming year. The Center received $108,000 in 2002 to help pay its bills. A representative of the Department of Rural Health made it clear that we must strive to become "self sufficient," starting in 2003, due to State budget deficits this coming year and going forward. The Board began making expense cuts immediately, and agreed to redouble efforts to sell all 400 tickets for the PT Cruiser raffle now underway.
Fortunately the $1,500,000 the State has given to Beaver Island for the new Health Center facility is in the bank. But the prospect of a decline in outside support leading to the Center needing to become "self sufficient" is causing the Board's facility planning committee to return to the drawing board with the architects. The guiding principle is to insure that we provide for what we absolutely need to deliver quality health care services and nothing more.
Community meetings will be scheduled as soon as preliminary drawings are available.
Finally, the Board approved new bylaws and contracts with both Townships.
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