The Cullman Regional Medical Center board Tuesday renewed its support of medical staff concerns regarding traffic on Alabama Highway 157.

Dr. Steve Seidel, chief of staff at CRMC, told board members officials with the Alabama Department of Transportation had determined the volume of traffic on the highway did not warrant either lowering the speed limit or installing a traffic signal at the entrance to the hospital.

"I want to go on record as stating that I don't agree with that," Seidel said. "We had a fatality in front of the hospital just recently and there have been numerous wrecks here. Anyone who has traveled 157 and has attempted to enter or leave the hospital knows how dangerous it can be."

An head-on collision on May 14 on Highway 157, a quarter-mile from the Sharpton Road intersection, claimed the life of a CRMC employee.

Robin Marie Swindle, 43, of Cullman, was killed in the accident as she was headed to her job at CRMC.

"We've sent letters to Sen. Zeb Little and the other members of the legislative delegation and we will be sending another letter to ALDOT. It's not a safe situation," Seidel said.

Jerry Laney, vice-president of support services for the hospital, said attempts have been made in the past to address the traffic problems on 157.

"In the past we've requested consideration for a traffic light and reduced speed limits through this area," Laney said. "The highway, we are told, is a state road and therefore is the responsibility of the Alabama Department of Transportation. The four-laning of 157, we're told, is in the state's five-year plan. The problem is, with each change of administration that five-year plan gets pushed forward."

Board Vice-chairman the Rev. Jack Collins, who chaired Tuesday's meeting in the absence of Steve Glasscock, joined with the medical staff in expressing his concerns about the traffic situation on Highway 157.

"We're all concerned about the safety of our patients and staff and we will attempt again to bring those concerns to the attention of the state," Collins said.

In other business, the board approved its monthly financial report.

Kim Shrewsbury, vice-president of finance, highlighted a number of key indicators for the board including patient discharges of 4,016 for the month of December, which is unfavorable when compared to budgeted discharges of 4,265 for the month. Patient days totaling 13,498 were also unfavorable when compared to budgeted days of 15,528 for the first quarter of the year. Adjusted discharges of 8,559 were also unfavorable when compared to budgeted discharges of 8,781.

Average length of stay for the month was 3.36 days, which is favorable when compared to 3.64 budgeted days.

Also favorable was the net patient revenue per adjusted discharge of $5,393 when compared to budgeted revenues of $5,361.

The cost per adjusted discharge at $5,867 was unfavorable when compared to budget costs of $5,400.

Unfavorable too were paid FTEs (full-time equivalent) at 797.2 (795.4 budgeted).

Other unfavorable indicators included operating margin -6.1 percent (1.4 percent budgeted), return on equity -9.8 percent (4.3 percent budgeted), billed days in accounts receivable 49.7 (45 budgeted), although improving; and days cash on hand, 83.2 (90.4 budgeted).

The hospital's Medicare case mix of 1.30 was favorable when compared to 1.23 budgeted.

CRMC ended the month of December with $7,272,694 in total operating revenue, which is $705,916 less than the $7,978,610 budgeted for the month. Total operating expenses were $8,291,375 or $384,414 more than the $7,906,961 budgeted. A key reason, Shrewsbury said, were interest expense and clinical supplies.

Revenues in excess of expenses for the month were a negative $696,199, which is $831,858 less than the $135,659 budgeted.

In other business, the board approved capital outlays totaling $51,635 for the month. Major expenses included an HP/Phillips central monitor ($20,922) and 175 fire extinguishers ($8,750).

Included in the total were $8,178 in non-budgeted purchases. Capital expenditures for the month totaled $5,348 over budget.

The board accepted the findings of a work place audit conducted during the months of August and September.

Jim Miller, vice-president of human resources, told board members that a total of 409 employees (roughly 30 percent of the staff at CRMC) completed the survey, which consisted of 88 questions related to employment environment at CRMC.

"We were very pleased with the outcome of the audit, which showed that CRMC employees scored favorable in all categories when compared to the database score for the six other hospitals in our survey group," Miller said. "Key findings of the audit showed CRMC employees find the culture positive, they're confident in the leadership, and they find the work environment positive."

On the negative side, Miller said a majority of employees were highly dissatisfied with their health insurance coverage and for that reason the decision was made late last year to switch insurance carriers to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama.

In response to the audit's findings, Miller and CEO Jim Weidner said efforts will be made to better communicate the hospital's four primary goals of:

• Being a leader in patient satisfaction

• Maintaining clinical excellence

• Being the employer of choice

• Returning the hospital to financial stability

The board also approved the following medical staff applications upon the recommendation of Dr. Seidel.

• Easton Norwood III, consulting staff, neurology

• Stephen Suggs, M.D., consulting staff, neurology

• Kimberly Graves, CRNP, Allied Health professional

• Traci Billingsley, PA, Allied Health professional

In his president's report, Weidner noted that CRMC had been designated a Tier 1 provider to Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

"We are also the only Tier 1 hospital in our immediate service area," Weidner said. "What that means is that Blue Cross will do their best to steer their customers to Tier 1 hospitals. We're very proud of this designation and we will work very hard to maintain our Tier 1 status."

Weidner reported that this past weekend's For Kids Sake talent show generated $10,000 in contributions for CRMC.

Other upcoming events, Weidner said, include Saturday's Women's Enrichment Day on the campus of Wallace State Community College and the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce's annual Citizen of the Year Award presentation on Feb. 16.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. March 7.

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