Labette County commissioners, meeting as the board of health, heard reviews from 2019 from the Labette County Health Department staff in Parsons Monday afternoon.
Brian Williams, Labette Health CEO, talked about clinic and hospital operations and Medicaid expansion in Kansas.
He said in the calendar year ending November 2018 hospital clinics had 65,000 visitors. In the calendar year ending November 2019, the clinics had 81,000 visitors. Home health visits increased by 2,000 in that same time period, Williams said.
The hospital is planning on $15 to $18 million in renovations that will offer more private patient rooms and account for patients not wanting to share bathrooms.
“We’ll spend a little bit more money, but I think you’ll be proud of the product when we’re done,” Williams said.
He said year to date the hospital made $2,265,849. Some may want the hospital to lower the cost of care, he said, but the hospital works as a not-for-profit and reinvests those profits in improved equipment and facilities. He said a new DaVinci robot will cost $2.4 million. A new nuclear medicine machine costs $230,000.
“As much as we have a bottom line, we reinvest back into the hospital, too, the real estate and the equipment you own,” Williams said.
In the same time period ending in November 2019, Williams said Labette Health had $9,368,215 in bad debt.
“That sounds huge. Remember hospital charges all across the United States are sort of inflated,” Williams said. “What’s realistic? Probably $3 to $4 million of that was collectible in the first place.”
The hospital provided charity care valued at $1,843,000 in that period.
Williams also discussed Medicaid expansion that the Kansas Legislature is going to take up again in the 2020 session that began Monday.
“That’s huge for all of us in public health and the hospital,” Williams said.
He’s still trying to get a clear understanding of how the proposal to expand Medicaid will impact the hospital. The projections are that expanding Medicaid will bring health care to 150,000 Kansans who are not now covered by medical insurance. That number may change depending on how many Kansans actually sign up for the coverage. Transportation may be an issue for these newly insured families to get to medical appointments.
“Medicaid expansion will be a wonderful thing, but a lot of people in this room will have to invest a lot of time and effort to help teach people how to get access to those programs,” Williams said.
Board member Fred Vail asked Williams what impact expansion will have on the hospital’s charity debt. Williams said it’s still too early to have accurate numbers, but expansion could reduce uncompensated care by $900,000. Hospitals are to add a surcharge to help the state get money to pay its share of expansion, but Williams is waiting to get more accurate estimates on this cost that will be passed on to hospital patients.
— Charles Morse, the county’s sanitation officer, said he did 30 real estate inspections in 2019 for lagoons or septic systems. He issued 14 new permits and wrote six enforcement letters when systems failed. He inspects sanitation systems in the unincorporated areas of the county yearly.
— Health Department Administrator Lisa Hoppock briefly discussed department work on an opioid grant, car seat program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in 2019. Angie Hammack, licensed practical nurse, said she attended a three-day training session on becoming child safety seat certified. She plans on having the first of two child safety seat checkpoints at the health department in March or April. She has installed seven car seats. Susie Jones, registered nurse and WIC coordinator, discussed WIC, though participation numbers were not available. Labette County has operated its own WIC site since October.
— Hammack said there are 48 licensed group or preschool centers in Labette County, down about 20 from a couple of years ago. She did 12 orientations in 2019 for people considering opening day cares and she did 51 complaint or compliance checks of day cares. Fewer day cares mean that parents have a wait list for good child care in the county and only a few spots open for infants in day cares.
— Janelle Weider, registered nurse, discussed communicable diseases. She said tick-borne diseases numbered 113 in the county in 2019. The county also had a single tularemia case in 2019. Childhood diseases such as pertussis, mumps and measles are making a comeback because some parents refuse to vaccinate their children.
Dr. Sonya Culver said younger generations haven’t heard of destructive polio or measles and they do not think vaccines are important and so don’t vaccinate their children.
“Our younger generation are firm believers that these are not necessary. And that’s why we’re seeing the uptick in these diseases because they are not vaccinating their children,” Culver said.
Weidert said the syphilis outbreak that was reported in 2018 was no longer considered an outbreak in Labette County in 2019. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will have a disease investigation specialist located in Pittsburg in late February to investigate syphilis and HIV in Southeast Kansas, she said. The chances of a sexually active person getting a sexually transmitted disease by age 25 is 50%, she said. Kansas had nine congenital syphilis cases in 2019, when a baby was born with syphilis, and two of those were in Southeast Kansas between June and December 2019, she said.
Hoppock said that’s significant because in the last 10 years Kansas didn’t have any congenital syphilis cases.
The board of health also approved one-year contracts with Culver, medical director for the health department, and Tracy Gilmore, pharmacist for the department.
In other business, commissioners in Oswego:
— Approved routine resolutions to begin the new commission year. Lonie Addis will serve as chairman and Fred Vail will be vice chairman. The commission adopted a list of 10 holidays for the calendar year. The commissioners named all banks in the county for possible depositories for county funds. The commission named the Parsons Sun as the official county newspaper. Next year, the Labette Avenue will be the official county newspaper.
— Agreed to move forward with The Home Store removing tile in the hallway and other areas of the jail in the spring or summer at a cost of $16,542.50. The concrete underneath the tile will be sanded smooth and cracks in it will be sealed before an epoxy coat will be applied to it. Some tile received water damage. Inmates may be moved outside in the enclosed recreation area of the jail during the work in case the fumes get too bad. There is no tile in inmate cells.
— Approved resolutions appointing Greg Rankins as Mount Pleasant Township clerk and Vicky Haraughty as its treasurer. Haraughty resigned as clerk to seek the treasurer’s position. Perry House had resigned as treasurer.
— Met with County Counselor Brian Johnson in closed session to discuss attorney-client privileged information.