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OPINION

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: VOTE NO- Resolution 2: half cent sales tax, Holmes County

Washington County News

DEAR EDITOR: 

As u all know there is an amendment to this years ballot to include a half cent sales tax to pay the hospital’s bond from the construction that originated in 2008’. I am asking u to consider voting NO.

I would like to offer some information that I was able to gather from the hospital C.O.O., public record request, past employees from the hospital and some food for thought.

Letter to the editor

INFORMATION GATHERED: In the 1950’s our state legislators were lobbied by local politicians to help us get a hospital. The State passed and formed a FOR PROFIT corporation called “Holmes County Hospital Corp” and board to over see the administration of the hospital. The board members are applicants from each county district, that are approved and appointed by the governor’s office. For many years the (old) hospital was ran (administrator) by a man named Mr. Winkler When it became time to build a new hospital (the one we have today) the hospital applied for bonds (mortgage) to cover the cost of the construction. There are 3 bonds on the hospital 1 large one, 2 smaller ones. Those bonds were issued by the success of the numbers from the hospital (old one) at that time. The (old) hospital was able to self sustain and at times brought in more than its overhead. Therefore, the bonds were issued in good faith of those current operating figures. In 2008, they totaled $17 million dollars to build the new hospital. In those 12 years, now going on 13 years the hospital has paid only $3 million of the $17 million, leaving $14 million left owed on the bonds. The bond holder for the highest holding bond, allowed for a 12 month deferral, prompting the 2 smaller bond holders to follow. The 12 month deferral is now up. It was proposed by hospital administration, that the county commissioners approve an amendment to include a half-cent sales tax be added to the ballot to pay the remaining $14 million in bonds. Within recent times, the hospital was touted by 2 separate management corps. One being the Corp that administers Chipley Hospital, the other being the one that administers Sacred Heart hospital. The (current) hospital administration in recent months brought on 3 doctors to run the hospital, in doing so the Chipley Admin bid was not responded to and the Sacred Heart admin bid was pulled by Sacred Heart. Of those 3 doctors, 1 saw how things were going and backed out before he got in over his head, the 2nd one left bc of the nepotism and butting heads with the administrator after a run in with her son, leaving us currently with the 3rd, Dr. Nguyen. The hospital said, it has had an audit, but as a tax paying citizen, some of us know audit info provided to the auditor, by persons running the hospital can be (not saying they are) smoke and mirrors. The past board members did approve looking into the possibility of a sales tax in the past, proposed by the administrator. The hospital said, they employ 160 employees with 94 employees living and paying taxes in Holmes County.

Doctor's Memorial Hospital is located just South of the I-10 overpass in Bonifay

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: At this point, I am not in belief that the administration or staff have been taking money so let me just say that right off the top. I do believe there are great ppl working there, one of them being my good friend. I do have concerns with staff pay scales at this hospital being higher or equivalent to those that serve at a full service, larger patient load, self sustained hospital. I also take great concern that the bond issue has been building up for quite some time and here we are after local elections, now being asked to vote on a sales tax increase without any formal details from the hospital or county commissioners. I did read the letter that the Doctor put out, however there were many unanswered questions that some voters had, that should have been addressed or with more clarity.

More:Doctors Memorial Hospital:  Looking Forward

1. How much money did it cost the hospital in indigent care over the $3.6 million amount, that was not reimbursed? And of that number what was reimbursed I.e. grants and state money?

2. How many of the indigent care patients are actual Holmes County residents compared to those that aren’t?

3. How much money does the projected sales tax expect to bring in, in 6 years?

4. How much is the overhead costs compared to what the hospital brings in currently? Of those overhead costs, what’s the breakdown in payroll, operating expense and equipment?

5. Does the hospital have additional income? I.e. rented unused office or hospital space and if so, how much does it contribute to covering the overhead, if any?

6. How much money does the hospital currently have in its coffers?

7. How much money was reimbursed to the hospital for COVID and what was it allowed to be applied to I.e. tests, medicine, payroll with over time related to Covid, equipment used, any over head related to covid?

This hospital WILL NOT CLOSE, according to Dr. Nguyen himself in an interview to WJHG; just like any other “mortgage” bond holder, they want their money not an empty building with their invest sitting there. From the sounds of it, maybe the option of privately owned is something to look into.. then they can assess payment options prior to admitting patients or send them elsewhere if need be (sounds like that is what has happened to us), potentially keeping the hospital running like a company and help curb debts occurred by indigent care. Privatizing might offer locals the full services that we’re having to travel to other hospitals to get, yet we’re apparently paying for. As well as keep the only half, of the 160 employees that are local residents employed. This very concept was on the table in the past, talks of privately managed by Sacred Heart’s management company and Chipley’s management company before it was dismantled by administration.. now looking at just 4 employees and 1 doctor’s salary’s out of 160 total employees, I’m starting to see why.

More:Doctors Memorial: People you know caring for people you love

1 employee- Insurance Coding $78,821.44

1 employee- Administrator $136,497.85

1 employee- Billing/Records $66,168.72

1 employee- IT/COO $69,404.00 (the C.O.O. is a position this hospital has never had before)

Doctor- $15,000 mo /$180,000.00 yr

Save our hospital by doing the right thing, Vote NO; force them to manage their funds better!

Paige Guthrie, Bonifay