Q1. Why is the Board evaluating options for hospital services?
Hardy: The Board’s responsibility is to ensure that our community has access to a broad range of hospital services and consistent, high-quality care. The Board recognizes that recent changes to the healthcare reimbursement system and the competitive healthcare market have altered the traditional market for hospital services. That is why we want to make certain that we are doing all we can to ensure that the citizens of this community continue to have access to quality care.
Q2. What are the options that the Board is considering?
Hardy: We are reviewing several options, including our arrangement with the Walker County Hospital Corporation (doing business as Huntsville Memorial Hospital), and the ownership structure of the hospital facility itself, among other issues.
Q3. What does this mean for hospital employees?
Hardy: The well-qualified, dedicated employees of the hospital are absolutely necessary to its operation. One of the Board’s primary goals is that current employees in good standing be retained and offered a job.
Q4. Are other hospital districts experiencing similar issues?
Hardy: Yes, hospital districts and single facility hospitals across the state and the country are experiencing similar issues. This issue was recently the subject of a news article in the Huntsville Item, titled “Changes in Washington put rural hospitals in jeopardy.” Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve by addressing our challenges now. As part of our pro-active approach, we have engaged financial consultants from Hilltop Securities and legal advisors from Bracewell, LLP and Beatty Bangle Strama P.C. to help us in effectively evaluating our options.
Q5. What are the next steps in the evaluation and what is the timeline?
Hardy: The next step is the preparation of a Request for Expressions of Interest to hospitals or hospital systems that may be interested in expanding to Huntsville. The Board’s financial consultant, Hilltop Securities, is preparing the RFP, which we expect to be circulated in early March. More generally, we are committed to transparency as we move forward, and will provide updated information to Walker County citizens throughout this process, including on our new website, www.walkercountyhospitaldistrict.org.
Q6. What impact will this process have on current operations of the hospital?
Hardy: There will be no effect on the hospital’s current operations. Our priority in undertaking this process is clear: maintaining a best-in-class facility in Walker County that provides patients with the full range of medical services they require and deserve. This process is designed to help the hospital secure increased capital for modernization and expansion, state-of-the-art equipment and a system that can help obtain favorable managed care contracts.
Q7. How can citizens of Walker County stay updated on the Board’s evaluation process?
Hardy: We launched a website (www.walkercountyhospitaldistrict.org) where the District will post updates as they are available and where citizens can provide their input. Beyond that, we will maintain an open dialogue with Walker County citizens. We look forward to feedback from the community as we work to preserve quality health care for Walker County for years to come.