BRHS approves properties sale

Published 6:41 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Staff Writer

The Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously, and with little discussion, approved the sale of properties valued at about $6.26 million to Beaufort County for $4.8 million.
The sale will give BRHS the money it needs to pay the county $1.57 million that BRHS owes as a debt payment for the recent construction project at the Beaufort County Medical Center, formerly Beaufort County Hospital.
It also will give BRHS the operating capital it needs for the remainder of the year.
The BRHS Board of Commissioners and the Beaufort County Medical Center Board of Trustees held back-to-back meetings Tuesday. BRHS commissioners also service as medical-center trustees.
Once the sale is completed, Beaufort County will become the landlord for the buildings and land, much as it is now for the medical center. The county will not manage the medical practices that use the buildings included in the sale, according to County Manager Paul Spruill, who met with the BRHS board to explain the terms of the sale.
The next step will be for the county to seek approval from the N.C. Local Government Commission for a 15-year loan from First Citizens Bank at an interest rate of 4.65 percent to buy the property.
The Local Government Commission likely will consider the proposal in early August to mid-August, Spruill said in an interview after the vote.
The property-tax rate of 50 cents per $100 valuation set by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners as part of its 2010-2011 budget includes one cent of that rate that will be used by the county to pay $543,200 in interest on the loan to buy the BRHS property.
In other business, medical-center trustees authorized Susan Gerard, BRHS’s acting chief executive officer, and other members of the management team to move forward with a plan to help the medical center take in more money for patient care through a review of patient charts.
Under the plan discussed by the board, BRHS would contract with BCE Technology to improve the documentation of patient care, which will help increase hospital reimbursement for services, according to BRHS officials.
The program is in use at Craven Regional Medical Center in New Bern.
The cost of the plan was estimated about $15,000 to $16,000 a month, including a fee of about $10,000 a month plus the services of a doctor for about eight hours at a rate o $150 an hour, according to BRHS Chief Finance Officer Chris Riggs.
Edwin M. “Sandy” Hardy cast the sole dissenting vote against the proposal, saying the medical center likely would be affiliated with another health-care entity before it saw any savings from the plan.
Alice Mills Sadler, chairwoman of the BRHS Board of Commissioners and the medical-center’s Board of Trustees, disagreed with Hardy, saying it “doesn’t make sense” for the medical center not to seek to be paid money it is owed.
“We have to stay afloat until they get here,” she said.
The need for improved documentation of patient symptoms, known as chart review, at BRHS was endorsed by James Manning, a hospitalist at BRHS and who also oversees the local staff of hospitalists.
“I think this is a great program,” Manning told the board. “This is about getting the money right and getting the money we are owed.”
In other business, the BRHS board named its newest member, Washington gynecologist Brenda Peacock, to serve as its vice chairwoman. Peacock succeeds Mills Sadler who was named chairwoman following Hardy’s resignation from the post.