The county commission Tuesday morning approved about a half-million dollars in new equipment purchases for Weems Memorial Hospital, including upgraded radiology equipment and a replacement of the CT scan.
By unanimous vote, commissioners approved a request from Weems CEO David Walker to spend $173,000 on upgraded radiology equipment, and $312,000 on a replacement for the CT scanner.
Walker said the expenditures will not be made from the hospital’s portion of the health care trust fund, but will come from monies received by the hospital as part of the federal American Rescue Plan.
“We’re trying to preserve that capital outlay money for other things,” he said. “We want to update equipment and not just wait until a new hospital is built.”
Walker said the CT scan, now housed outside the hospital, will be placed inside, and that once a new hospital is built, it will be relocated to the new facility.
“With weather conditions it’s not now conducive to better patient care,” he said.
The commissioners also OKd a plan to replace old hospital beds with 27 new ones purchased with state emergency management dollars. In doing so, Weems plans to donate 15 of the older beds to Cross Shores Care Center in Port St. Joe. Walker noted that Weems first contacted St. James Health and Rehabilitation Center in Carrabelle, but that facility said they already had newer beds.
Walker shared with commissioners Weems board of directors’ decision not to share in Gulf County’s subsidy of a new kidney dialysis center in an office building on the grounds of Ascension Sacred Heart campus near the Gulf-Franklin Center.
He said Weems was looking at mobile dialysis companies to see about striking a deal to have one provide services in the county, since health care trust funds could not be used for the subsidy. “And the hospital cannot use the funds to pay for something that isn’t part of the hospital,” Walker said.
He also noted that since many local patients are served by Capital Health Plan out of Tallahassee, there are restrictions about coverage available to patients who use services west of Franklin County.
“CHP is ‘narrow network’ insurance that directs patients to a certain location,” said Susan Daniels, Weems chief financial officer.
“We’ve spoken with three (mobile dialysis) companies and had meaningful dialogue,” he said. “This will take some time and we’ll be diligent.”
Walker said the hospital is reaching out on Facebook to secure a clearer idea of the number of patients doing in-home dialysis
“We have a lot of people who drive themselves to dialysis,” he said.
He said one option will be to place a larger mobile unit on the grounds of the hospital three days a week, while another may be to use a smaller unit that can be moved as needed to Eastpoint, Carrabelle or St. George Island.
“Another option is creating a couple rooms inside the hospital,” Walker said. “Our goal is to create access to care.”
County Commissioner Jessica Ward acknowledged that “there has been a lot of discord and disappointment that we didn’t help them (Gulf County) out.
“If there is any way we could do it, we would do it for our citizens,” she said. “It’s not that we didn’t want to work with Gulf County. We didn’t have the money.”