LHS breaks from Radiology of Huntsville, sees COVID-19 stress

The Lincoln Health System Administrative Report that was presented to the Board of Trustees in late August contained a number of updates on the status of the health system, including the stress induced by COVID-19, the termination of their contract with Radiology of Huntsville, and the progress of the insurance rate renegotiation with Blue Cross.

The section of the report devoted to nursing opened with an update on COVID-19. According to the text, LHS has “had more COVID+ patients since July than [they] did in all of the first four months [of the pandemic].” In response, the system has implemented the use of “new treatment protocols,” which, while not presented as an exhaustive list, include the use of convalescent plasma – plasma processed from the blood samples of individuals who have already recovered from COVID-19 and therefore contain the relevant antibodies – and the antiviral drug Remdesivir, which has demonstrated some ability to reduce illness duration for individuals suffering from moderate cases of COVID-19. The report also noted that “numerous employees have contracted the virus;” however, the exact number of positive employees was not specified. Additionally, the report notes that the health system is “performing staffing miracles” to ensure appropriate coverage of both the hospital and Donalson Care Center. Supplies for in-house, bedside COVID-19 testing have been ordered, and LHS should be prepared for this sort of testing within September.

LHS has also seen some leadership changes among the staff. Donna May has been selected as ICU/MS Director, and Carrie Finchum is assuming the position as the interim OR director until LHS can find the “right fit” for the role.

Early in 2020, LHS updated their medication event reporting protocols, to what is described as “great success.” In light of this success, the health system will be similarly updating their incident reporting system. The new system will be implemented in the fourth quarter and is projected to result in savings of $6,000 a year.

The State of Tennessee has performed three surveys on Donalson Care Center in the previous two months. However, the results of the most recent survey, which occurred in August, have not been returned. These results will be shared once they have been posted to the National Health Association.

The administrative report also gave an advisory that flu season is quickly approaching. Flu vaccines are already be received by the health system, and the Board of Directors will have an opportunity to receive their vaccines at the October board meeting. While not confirmed by the report, this may suggest approximately the time that flu shots will become available for the public.

The finance report opened with the decision to drop their current record-keeping software for another, declaring that a letter of termination would be sent to NEXTGEN Healthcare, as the software provided by Athena Physician – which went live on July 28 – is “running smoothly.” Insofar as what information is provided in the report, it is unclear what financial effect this change will have on the health system.

The rate renegotiation with Blue Cross continues to be underway. Blue Cross representatives have “tentatively agreed to [a] 10% across the board rate increase.” A $400K annual reimbursement increase is projected pending contract revisions and effective date.

The financial stress of COVID-19 was also outlined in the report. These effects are as follows: “Heavy Private Pay resulting in unusually high bad debt; I/P admissions heavy with ER admits fueling 75% or more of I/P activity; PT volumes and wellness activity suppressed due to public concern of environment; and outpatient scheduled visits clawing back slowly as public comfort for hospital setting increases.”

Additionally, the fiscal year 2020 audit being carried out by Putman and Hancock is ongoing.

The final section of the administrative report, which provided updates on business development, opened with the news that Jack Grove has accepted the fulltime position of Nursing Home Administrator, having begun his new role on August 24. Special thanks was offered to Natalie Brown for serving as the Interim Administrative during the transitionary period.

Significantly, this portion of the report also states that, effective September 24, Radiology of Huntsville will have terminated their contract with Lincoln Health System. LHS was served the termination following the retirement of Dr. William D. Layman, who was an affiliate of Radiology of Huntsville. In response to this, Lincoln Health System “is reaching out to see what other Radiologist groups might offer as well as furthering discussions with Radiology of Huntsville to arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement.”