For the week of September 30 thru October 6, 1998  

No decision on valley’s only pediatrician

WRMC budget gains approval

Express Staff Writer

Finances were the main topic of the Wood River Medical Center Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 23.

The board approved the final 1999 budget, and continued contract negotiations with the valley’s only pediatric doctor, Dr. Marel Hanks, in a closed executive session.

If an agreement between the parties regarding compensation for 1999 and 2000 cannot be reached, Hanks may leave the area.

A supportive team of mothers, fathers and children spoke before the board in support of Hanks and described her as a dedicated and trusted doctor. The group collectively said they would take their children out of town to see a pediatrician if Hanks is forced to leave.

"With the new hospital you’re moving forward, but to take away a specialist is a step backward," said Julie Ramano.

"Dr. Hanks is the most dedicated doctor I’ve ever had," Melinda Klimes told the board. "She has a case load that’s unbelievable, and if she leaves, you’re putting her caseload onto others who already are busy."

In defense of its position in the current negotiations on retaining the specialist, the medical center released a statement last week.

"We have proposed a compensation for Dr. Hanks which would be based upon a percentage of her adjusted gross billings rather than the current situation which has the hospital paying a salary regardless of her patient volume," said WRMC Chief Executive Officer Jon Moses.

According to the medical center, currently managed by St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center under an interim agreement for a takeover, the board previously approved a contract that included a public subsidy to implement Hanks’ income while she built her practice in the valley with the understanding that the amount would decrease as Hanks’ practice increased.

Negotiations are ongoing.


In other business, the board approved the final budget for 1999 pending approval by the city of Sun Valley and Blaine County.

The hospital is currently co-owned by Sun Valley and Blaine County, though managed by St. Luke’s until it takes over when the new hospital at Cold Springs is completed.

The total operating budget is $17.6 million, a 5.5 percent increase from 1998. More than half of the budget is allotted for salaries, wages and benefits at $8.96 million.

The WRMC is projecting a 5.5 percent increase in net patient revenues as a result of a 1- to 2-percent increase of inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Proposed is a rate increase of 2.75 and 2 percent respectively for Medicare and Medicaid payments, and a 4.5 percent increase for other payers.

For example, daily rates for intensive care have increased from $1,060 to $1,110 and Blaine Manor rates have increased by $3 per day from $135 to $138.


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