County commissioners approve fund increase

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt County Commissioners gave approval for a 4 percent increase in its matching funds for the Sole Community Provider/Indigent Funds program to Roosevelt General Hospital officials at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Hospital Administrator James D’Agostino and RGH Business Office Manager John Murray told commissioners the increase was based on projections of what the budget would be from federal money. To access that money, they need an increase from the county.

D’Agostino told commissioners that the program is under scrutiny on the federal level and is in danger of being cut or dropped.

“Without the program, I think our financial picture at the hospital would be severely impacted,” D’Agostino said.

The increase would cost the county approximately $368,021 next year and provide the hospital with $1.28 million in funding. The first quarter’s payment of approximately $93,000 will be rolled over as a match in subsequent quarters, according to D’Agostino.

Later in the day, at the RGH board meeting, D’Agostino told that group that the Sole Community Provider program had strayed away from its original intent of helping rural hospitals.

He noted one hospital in Santa Fe as an example in the program that was doing a large volume and could more easily absorb indigent costs.

“The small hospitals, we argue that we don’t have the volume,” D’Agostino said. “We’ve requested that they look at the original intent.”

Commission Chairman Paul Grider questioned the fact that the program had seen an increase last year as well. He asked if it was going to keep going up.

Commissioner Dennis Lopez said it had increased each year since he had become a commissioner.
“I’ve never seen it stay the same since 2000,” Lopez said.

D’Agostino said even with the increases, it was a good deal for the community.

“You take that $93,000 and roll it to come up with over $1.2 million — that’s tremendous bang for your buck,” D’Agostino said.

Commissioner Gene Creighton asked what could be done about abuse of the emergency room by patients with routine conditions.

D’Agostino replied there wasn’t a lot that could be done because of liability issues.
“Once they walk in, they’re ours,” he said.

In other business at Tuesday’s Roosevelt County Commissioners meeting, commissioners:
• Approved a resolution for participation in the locally administered DWI Program.

• Heard a presentation by Portales City Manager Debi Lee on the downtown visioning process that was recently completed. The plan details changes around the courthouse square as well as other areas.

• Approved a preliminary plat for Adobe Estates subdivision, proposed by Alva Carter and located a little over a mile east of Portales city limits.

• Accepted the recommendation of surveyors and closed a portion of South Roosevelt Road 24.

• Appointed surveyors to view North Roosevelt Road H 1/2, which under consideration as an extension of N.M. 202.

• Elected Commissioner David Sanders as chairman for 2008 and Bill Cathey as vice-chairman.
• Denied one indigent claim based on incomplete information and the possibility that the claimant actually resides in Chaves County.

• Heard a report from Emergency Management Director Keith Wattenbarger on plans for a reverse-911 system for the county. Wattenbarger told commissioners he had narrowed the field of vendors to one, with the county’s 25 percent portion of the installation coming in at $14,000. He said he would be back for approval once the plan had been approved by the city of Portales.