Americore CEO provides ‘clarity’

Published 12:11 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

Americore CEO and founder Grant White was in town Wednesday to provide “clarity and transparency” regarding miscommunication. The visit to the city comes after Americore and Pineville Community Hospital (now known as Southeastern Kentucky Medical Center) have taken some heavy criticism as of late.

“We’ve done nothing but try to help. We’re $8 or $9 million in, and we’re still committed to being here,” said White. “There were a lot of losses and a lot of bad leadership for a long time before we ever got here. The water bill I don’t think has been paid long before we ever got here. There are a lot of other bills that were never paid for years.

“As merely just a manager of a hospital where you’re supposed to collect a fee, we’ve been pumping money into it with no ownership. I don’t know another management company in the country that does that.”

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White made it clear that Americore signed an asset purchase agreement for the sale of non-real estate assets and also signed a long-term lease with an option to purchase real estate assets and the medical building downtown.

Recently, the City of Pineville put liens on the hospital property for unpaid taxes and bills in the sum of $429,309.69. Mayor Scott Madon also issued a warning that if the bill wasn’t paid the water would be shut off.

“With regard to the lease, the water bill and all of these things, I’d have to look at the purchase agreement on which liabilities we actually assumed in the acquisition,” said White. “Obviously, we can’t run a place without water, but there’s a lot of things being said that I don’t agree with. We cleaned up a tremendous amount of employee issues that far pre-dated us. We managed to preserve over 200 jobs in the community to this point.”

As far as the agreement to pay the bills, White said he never got a chance to read it. He said someone who works for him may have signed it, but it wasn’t his signature.

“I’d have to take a look at (the agreement),” said White. “The reality is…we have a purchase agreement to close the end of May that was very clear on what liabilities we took on and what ones we didn’t. We paid significantly more for the assets we got than what they are worth. We assumed way more liabilities than assets we took.”

According to White, the water bill has been paid for the period since Americore took ownership of hospital operations in early May. He estimated that the bill was somewhere in the $5,000 range.

“We’re going to stay current on our water bill under our ownership because we own it. We pay rent, and we’re responsible for the utilities,” said White. “There are two sides to it. There is what the water bill is since we started owning it. Then there’s this other bill.

“My next move is to call the water company. If anyone knows me at all and has any clue what I’ve gone through personally to try to ensure these (employees) get paid week to week…they would know I’m not going to pay a bill that I’m not responsible for.”

Health insurance and paid time off

One of the concerns from employees and the community has been the issue of health insurance for workers at the hospital. Several have made statements via social media about medical claims not being paid.

White said they had a dispute with Anthem that is currently being worked through with a goal to make sure the employees are “taken care of” with no gaps in coverage.

“What I will say is since we took over May 7, everyone is covered,” said White.

Paid time off (often referred to as PTO) was not taken as a liability assumed in Americore’s acquisition, according to White. He said the PTO is still probably in the old hospital association.

“At some point, you have to make a choice on what’s going to get taken care of where,” said White. “You have to decide at some point you’re moving forward in an asset purchase. You can’t be Santa Claus on every basket that’s there.”

Future plans for the hospital

In addition to discussing some of the concerns with the hospital, White discussed his vision for the newly named Southeastern Kentucky Medical Center. Those plans include an emphasis on behavioral health, drug rehab, telemedicine, home health and technology-enabled shared services.

“We’ve got to stop trying to be every service line we possibly have…because you have hospitals 20 minutes down the road. The goal is to take care of people at the lowest cost as possible,” said White. “There are a lot of services (other hospitals) are not providing that we think we can do a really good job at. There is also a lot of technology that exists today — telehealth and bringing experts to the community as opposed to having to recoup them and have them sent here.”

White said there are significant things to be done in laboratory testing, pharmacy, drug treatment and behavioral health. He referenced the well-known drug problem as an example of the need for drug treatment and behavioral health.

“We have a huge building with 150,000 square feet sitting mostly empty. We have the expertise we can bring to the table to help take care of these people,” said White. “It’s not something other hospitals nearby are doing a lot of.

“We can help people, so we would be foolish not to apply for a license to expand our drug treatment capabilities.”

The Americore CEO said there are plans to keep the hospital as an acute hospital, but that is only going to be a piece of what they do. They plan to be really good at some things instead of providing a variety of services offered at other locations.

“We’re always going to have the emergency room, or that’s our goal. We’re going to have acute care, but we’re not going to try and sit here all day and compete toe-to-toe when people would rather drive to a newer facility,” said White. “Even if our care is the best in the community, somehow new and shiny works for a lot of people.”

White said the hospital is just one of many pieces of the new model Americore is trying to implement.

“We’re going to stop spending enormous amounts of money trying to compete with a model that’s going to end up dated,” said White. “I tell my team all the time (that) where not going to be the Toys R Us of health care. We’re going to be at the front end of all of this leadership.”

In an attempt to move forward with this new plan, tough decision had to be made including layoffs and the closure of the nursing home inside the hospital. White said it is his job to look at the bigger picture.

“The reality is you had a cost structure here and a revenue structure (that) in some months was losing upwards to a million dollars a month,” said the Americore CEO. “That’s not sustainable. We’ve had to make some changes, but we’re pretty optimistic about where we can go from here.”

The decision to close the nursing home was made by a different team, but White said he is not sure if the move was a negative thing.

“We’re clearly not good at (the) nursing home business,” said White. “There are people around here that is all they do all day long. I think you will see us re-purpose that area. That’s where some of the drug treatment programs and these other behavioral health programs can make sense.”

White said in the end he is not here to be hated, but when people participate in heated conversations that means they care.

“I’m here today because I care. They’re are people working all day, 24/7 shifts because they care. It’s very easy to start finger pointing and start wars, and that’s the last thing this place needs,” said White.

The Americore CEO said what the hospital needs is to move forward.