CCMH BHU stays open for now


August 23rd, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A conference room at the Cass County Memorial Hospital was packed this (Tuesday) morning, with onlookers and persons voicing their concerns over the possible closure of the Behavioral Health Unit at CCMH. A special meeting of the CCMH Board of Trustees had been called to discuss the future of the unit, which reportedly cost the hospital nearly one-half million dollars last year, due to un-reimbursed Medicare and Medicaid expenditures. After nearly two-hours, no decision was made on closing the facility. Instead, the board will look into other options, including downsizing costs associated with remodeling of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to accommodate the BHU.

CCMH Administrator Pat Markham said architects who are working on the current remodeling project, also drew-up a draft for remodeling the ICU to make room for a downsized BHU unit. She says it wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but it would be functional. It would have four beds instead of the current eight. Rough estimates put the cost at $240- to $250,000.

That doesn’t include mechanical and electrical costs. Markham says they didn’t look at having a separate building on the CCMH campus for a Behavioral Health Unit when they came up with the original remodeling plans, because they anticipated losses associated with the unit. The prospect of downsizing the BHU instead of eliminating it entirely, was a bit easier for the board to accept, but they reached a stalemate, when a vote was taken on a motion to reduce the number of beds from eight-to four.

Board Members John Molgaard, Steve Sisler and Leanne Pellet voted against the motion, while members Ned Brown, Phyllis Stakey and Lois Casey voted in favor. The board was short one member due to a vacancy. Pellet said she voted against the motion, because she doesn’t know where the funding would come from to keep the unit functioning.

After the meeting, Cass County Supervisor Chuck Rieken said the reason the CCMH Board of Trustees reached a stalemate, is because they want the hard numbers crunched on how much a remodeling of the ICU would cost, and the possible revenue alternatives that are available, before any decision is made. He says the Board is on the right track, but both the CCMH Board, and the Board of Supervisors need to know the hard numbers before any consideration can be given to funding or not funding the BHU in the future.

One option that was raised to fund the BHU, involved an increase in the hospital’s tax asking, which is currently at 46-percent. Rieken said the county can’t pursue that, and neither can the CCMH Trustees, without sound legal advice.

CCMH Trustee Ned Brown said during the meeting, that if they should eventually increase the tax asking, it would have nothing to do with the current construction project. Instead, it would only be to keep the BHU “alive.”