EMH ER turnover

Emergency room switch will save local hospital $260,000-plus annually

L-R: Julie Wade, Registered Mammography Tech, and First Patient Mary Louise Thomas at EMH on Nov. 27.

Elbert Memorial Hospital’s Authority Board made two changes with vendors last week in an effort to cut down on expenses in one case and eliminate a dramatic rise in expenses in the other.

After a tumultuous tangle in recent months with an organization that provided the hospital with physicians in the emergency room, the board voted unanimously to hire Southland MD.

EMH will also change radiology vendors.

The emergency room move should save Elbert Memorial Hospital $262,580 (or more) annually.

“By far, the complaint I hear the most about at this hospital is the emergency room,” said EMH Authority Board Chairman Daniel Graves.

The move to Southland MD means that EMH will cut its ties with Hospital MD, an organization that recently increased its fees at the Elberton hospital.

According to EMH CEO Kerry Trapnell, Hospital MD’s fees were expected to rise to just under $1 million per year.

Trapnell said this was happening despite emergency volume was decreasing (except for the first part of FY 2019), admissions from ER decreased, transfers to other hospitals from EMH increased and numerous issues arose for consumers who discovered physicians in the ER were not in patients’   health insurance network.

Hospital MD had been providing ER doctors to EMH since 2014.

The new ER vendor, Southland MD, currently provides doctors to hospitals in emergency rooms in rural Georgia (over 30 in all) and over 100 other hospitals in the U.S.

Southland MD utilizes a mix of emergency/military-trained and mid-level practitioners. All emergency room staffers would be in-network with all major insurances and Georgia companies. According to Trapnell, the company is “trialing” use of Mercer University residents in other locations.

The change to a new radiology vendor, which also passed with a unanimous vote by the authority, resulted from an information storage issue with AnMed and a vendor in Anderson, South Carolina.

AnMed had helped EMH to store radiology images, but over the years, in an effort to encourage EMH to move its images, AnMed was going to increase fees on the images in a move that would have been more than $500,000 over five years.

The new vendor, South Georgia Radiology and Radius, won’t charge for night coverage in the ER at EMH and won’t charge an increased fee to store images. According to Trapnell, South Georgia Radiology is in more than 25 rural Georgia hospitals and is in-network for all major insurances and Georgia companies. State Office for Rural Health grants will pay for EMH to switch radiology groups in the first year of the switch.

Both votes and deliberation about the two switches of vendors were open to the public because, Graves said, he wanted the EMH Authority Board to be the “most transparent body politic in Elbert County.” Graves added “this hospital belongs to the people of Elbert County.”

Trapnell said Elbert Memorial finished the month of October almost $125,000 on the positive side of the month’s budget. For the year to date (which started in July) EMH is $389,947 over budget.

“With local utilization we can survive and thrive,” said Graves, noting the communities utilization of the hospital and its services in October.

“We need more Octobers,” Trapnell told the authority board.

Two 12-year veterans of the authority board – Susan Fortson and Rose Walker – will be rolling off the board and Graves said the authority is accepting nominations to replace them prior to the January meeting of the authority.

The nominations will be at-large nominees instead of authority members that represent Bowman, Elberton and Elbert County.

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