Singing River asking county for loan for healthcare mandates

PASCAGOULA — Singing River Health System officials say they need a $37.5-million loan, with most of the money needed to meet President Barack Obama’s impending health care mandates.

The Mississippi Press reports hospital representatives asked Jackson County supervisors yesterday for a bond issuance. The largest portion of the money — $22 million — would be used on electronic medical records, capable of linking with other providers’ records.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act encourages doctors and hospitals to convert patient records to electronic format by 2014 or face penalties in 2015, mostly in the form of reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

The supervisors didn’t take formal action on the request, which includes $6 million for a neurosciences center and $5.5 million for a chiller plant replacement project.

Singing River Health System, which operates hospitals in Pascagoula and Ocean Springs, already has technology that allows doctors to access records and even medical scans remotely, but the new software “really takes it to another level,” said Chris Anderson, chief executive officer of the health system.

“It’s an actual clinical decision support system,” he said, noting that it will be especially helpful in pointing out possible drug interactions for patients.

Some elderly patients are on up to 40 medications, Anderson said, and their doctors now have to manually check each drug for interactions. The new system would immediately alert doctors to the interactions, he said, which increases safety.

The software works “real-time at the bedside,” he told supervisors.

The representatives also noted they would receive up to $11 million in federal stimulus money to help offset the cost of the system. That money will go into the operating budget and cannot be used to pay down the loan early, they said.

Mike Crews, the system’s chief financial officer, said the bond issue would bring the hospital’s total long-term debt to more than $100 million, up from $71.8 million currently.

The board did not take formal action on the matter but did give SRHS a nod to continue preparing the bond issue, which also includes $6 million for a new neurosciences center and $5.5 million for a chiller plant replacement project at Singing River Hospital.

Source: The Mississippi Press

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