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Claiborne to cover hospital shortfalls

[07/06/01] The Claiborne County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to cover funding shortfalls at the county’s public hospital while a private consultant implements plans to improve finances at the health center.

The supervisors agreed to give Claiborne County Hospital 90 days to install new health care programs designed by Jackson consultant Mitch Monsour to erase a deficit that has forced hospital officials to cut back patient services several times this year.

Meanwhile, the county board will cover weekly financial requests by the hospital, District 5 Supervisor Charles Shorts said.

“The hospital will undoubtedly remain open,” said Shorts, who approved the plan along with District 1 Supervisor Albert Butler and District 4 Supervisor Martha Lott. District 2 Supervisor Charlie Norrell Jr. and District 3 Supervisor W.B. Moore were not present.

Wanda Fleming, administrator of CCH, said the plan is a good solution to a problem that almost forced the hospital to close its doors.

“The Board of Supervisors has reaffirmed its commitment to health care for the citizens of Claiborne County,” Fleming said. “It’s a good day.”

Fleming declined to estimate how much the hospital would need from the county during the next 90 days. She also did not discuss details of the new programs to be implemented at CCH.

The hospital, on McComb Avenue in Port Gibson, has faced a welter of financial problems that stem from government cutbacks in aid to rural health care.

The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 took about $200,000 a year for five years from CCH’s normal appropriation. But other factors have exacerbated the hospital’s troubles it still owes $300,000 in free service to pay back a federal loan it received in the 1970s; it was disqualified last year from a Medicaid program that previously provided $300,000 annually; and it is still trying to make up a Medicare overpayment of almost $200,000 that it received in 1999.

Earlier this week, the hospital had no money in its bank account, prompting Fleming to say it might close its doors “at a moment’s notice.” CCH’s linen closet is almost bare, forcing nurses to pay for new bed sheets out of their pockets. The hospital’s cable service was cut off last week.

Established in 1951, CCH is a non-profit operation that caters primarily to poor and elderly patients from Port Gibson and outlying areas. Since it is the only hospital in Claiborne County, it often provides primary care to seriously ill or wounded people who are later transferred to Vicksburg or Jackson for more extensive treatment.