The Trustees share their opinions
by C. F. David
It was obvious to all those in attendance at the June 23 meeting, the Trustees were divided. Dwilene Holbert made her stand apparent quickly; she was in favor of signing Burrus on and she wanted Cypress gone.
The fifth trustee, Linda Burns is in another state and cannot be contacted until next week.
On the other side of the fence, were Chairman Alan Shields, Richard Hitchings and John Smith.
Hitchings and Smith were interviewed together; Holbert separately and Shields by phone.
Richard Hitchings-John Smith
“I was taken by surprise, the way it became public,” Hitchings said.
“I was caught off guard and it wasn't just the big turnout.”
“Basically, the meeting was to discuss and decide on Cypress,” Hitchings added.
“Two weeks ago, Mr. Burrus wanted us to vote on his contract,” Smith said.
“Alan had seen it [the contract] the others of us hadn't,” Hitchings explained.
“I saw it last Tuesday,' Smith said.
“It was about 5:15 on Monday, when I first saw it,” Hitchings added.
Moving on to the issue of Cyp-ress Health, Smith explained, “Cypress is really in hopes we can keep the hospital open.”
In answer as to why the managment team might consult without fees, Smith said, “They want to give something back and so not charge us. We owe them nothing.”
“Our decision to keep Cyprus was primarily for the board to have a consultant. It doesn't mean that Mr. Burrus has to consult with them,” Smith explained.
As to how the Trustee's might solve the immediate money problems brought to light by Burrus:
“We are hoping the loan will come through. If not, we'll talk to individuals,” Smith answered.
“The loan request has been given to a bank,” he added.
“We had a set a deadline of June 30 to have the money to catch up on the taxes,” Smith explained.
On the decision to table the discussion on Burrus' contract:
We felt it was better to wait,' Smith said.
“This is a major decision,” Hitchings added.
“If a contract is approved we'll work with Mr. Burrus,” Smith said.
“I'd say the same,” Hitchings agreed. “Historically, the board has supported each other, even with a split vote.”
On getting the computers and software to bill correctly:
“I think we have a CFO in place who is capable of doing this. He just has things to learn. He's computer literate enough to pickup on it,' Hitchings said with confidence.
“He also has access to phone numbers to consult with Cypress,” Hitchings added.
“They are willing to help him with training,” Smith agreed.
Has Cypress ever taken on a client for free?:
“I understand we are the first,” Hitchings said.
“I'm not sure that when I said ‘a charity case' that was the correct terminology,” he admitted.
“They want us to survive, ”Smith said.
If Cypress doesn't want the hospital, why not?:
They manage one the hospital, they own one in Florida and one in Montana; they have a lot of managment contracts. They just told us we are not in the right location; we aren't the right size,” Smith said. “I'm not even sure they are looking to buy anymore hospitals,” he added.
What do want to tell the community?:
“I don't know how the rumor started that he flew here in a Lear Jet,” Smith said. He drove up here in a 1996 Ford Ranger pickup,” he added.
“Every decision we've made for the hospital has been with the best interest of the hospital, its employees and the community,” Smith said.
“I've thought about the meeting last night; and I'm comfortable with my decisions,' shields said.
“I didn't explain last night why I made the decision I did about Cypress and I should have.”
“I needed someone I could talk to, so that I could make the best possible decisions I could about the hospital.
Could he work with rod Burrus if the contract was signed?:
You bet! I can work with Mr.. Burrus.
“Everyone knows it was gonna be a split vote. But, with an issue this controversial, we needed every board member present, we were in 100 percent agreement about that.”
“The county commissioners put us on their Monday's agenda about a week ago; so Monday morning, at 9 a.m. we'll have a joint meeting at the courthouse, Shields said.”
What has to happen to make you happy?:
“We need to terminate the contract with Cypress health Systems,” Holbert said. “Not only because Rod wanted it, but the employees want it too.
“I want Rod to be given a year to prove himself. I like the way he thinks; he has good ideas,” She added.
“He was looking at every angle; he looked at selling our accounts receivable, or talking to local individuals.”
“The $403 thousand we wanted to borrow, would have paid us up on state and federal payroll taxes, workman's comp and the employees dependant's health insurance.”
“We are going to receive approximately $792 thousand dollars over the next three years from the sales tax. We can obligate those funds to help secure a loan. Depending on the interest, that should cost us about $14 thousand for a 30-month-loan.”
What if the bank doesn't come through?:
“We'll go to another bank; or private individuals. I think if there was a plan in place to get the hospital back the way it was, with a surgeon...”
“We can still ask for taxes, a bond issue for capital improvements.
What about a hospital district?:
“You'd need a representative to introduce legislation; to set millage,” she replied.
Holbert doesn't trust the offer by Cypress to “wipe the slate and not invoice the hospital.
“I'd want to see a legal document with signatures,” she said.
She would also like the resignations from two of the present board members.
“I gave the county commissioners some names [potential board members] on Monday,” she said.
With Cypress gone, and the two board members replaced, Holbert says Burrus is prepared to return, sign a contract and get to work.
Holbert is fearful of losing the hospital and the economic trickle down effect it would have on the county and its economy.
“Oh my word, it would affect, the schools; and it would make a real hardship on the EMS District,” she added.
“I've never had any dealings with Cypress; my concern is two things in our managment agreement; para graph two and paragraph seven.”
[Paraphrasing each paragraph , it boils down to this: para two basically says that Cypress will comply with all state and federal statutes and regulations consistent with the policies of Cimarron Memorial Hospital. Paragraph Seven reads that the agreement will be interpreted and applied by, Louisiana law.-Ed.]
“I was told by another trustee that if we ever got sued because of this agreement, we'd be in a Lousiana Court,” Holbert said.
If the other trustees agreed to sign Burrus' contract and he not have to consult with Cypress would that be agreeable?:
“I don't think it would be agreeable to Rod. I feel he is capable of doing everything that Cypress Health Systems does Holbert said.
Her feelings about Shields, Hitchings and Smith?:
“I know they have given a lot to keep that hospital going. But, I think staying with Cypress is a bad thing.”
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