Hospital district to clarify finances
by Meg Olson
Hospital district commissioners are waiting for a new executive director to take the reins at Interfaith Community Health Center, in hopes of clearing up foggy accounting.
“We need to be monitoring Interfaith more closely,” superintendent Margery Biery told commissioners at the district’s January 12 regular meeting, reporting on conversations with the state auditor’s office about an upcoming audit of district finances. “We’ve been working on trying to get billings and invoices, because we need to find out what revenues are.”
The hospital district’s yearly contract with Interfaith pays an annual amount for the health center to run the Point Roberts clinic, including payroll, billing, and all other operating costs. They collect revenue from insurance and patient payments, and if revenues exceed the annual operating costs they are supposed to go into district coffers, to offset the burden on taxpayers.
“We know how much relative income there is but not the details,” Biery said. “We need to make sure the revenues are being accurately reported so it offsets tax dollars and for some reason it’s always been a bone of contention with them.”
Statistics for 2008 show an average of 128 visits per month to the clinic, an increase from 2006 and 2007. The clinic added between 6 and 18 new patients every month. “It’s not a lot, but it’s more, every month it’s more.”
“It leads me to suspect they may be making a profit here,” said hospital district board chair Barbara Bradstock. “We’re paying the absolute cost and they’re pocketing the rest.” Interfaith is a non-profit health care provider, and Bradstock clarified that her concern was dollars from Point Roberts weren’t staying in Point Roberts but were drifting to other areas of the organization.
The hospital district will collect $229,489 from taxpayers this year, at a taxation rate of 47 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.
The 2008 contract amount with Interfaith was $131,000, with the balance of tax funds going to insurance, rent, district administrative costs and a capital reserve fund. This year the number abruptly jumped to $158,000 and Biery said she asked Interfaith financial staff to review the figure. “It’s always been around $130,000 so why the increase?” she asked. The contract amount was revised to $131,000 for 2009.
“There hasn’t been due diligence here, but recognizing the disruption in management it’s understandable,” said nurse practitioner Virginia Lester, the clinic’s primary heath care provider.
Interfaith has seen a significant turnover in management in the last year.
Biery said she will meet with the new executive director for Interfaith, Desmond Skiubi, when he fills the now vacant position in February. The issue of revenue reporting will be at the top of the agenda, she said, but timely billing is also a concern for the hospital district.
“We don’t know and we don’t need to know the day to day operations but when people are being denied benefits because of untimely billing, we need to look into it,” Biery said. “The comments we’re getting here are that patients and insurers are getting bills way too late.”
In other hospital district news, commissioners will be looking for a new superintendent to take over next April when Biery leaves the position. “It’s up to you when you want to start this process,” Biery said.