By Amanda McBride
The Choctaw Plaindealer
Approximately 40 concerned citizens filled the Choctaw County Board of Supervisors meeting on October 21 with concerns about Pioneer Community Hospital of Choctaw.
Rick Jenkins addressed the supervisors on behalf of the group of citizens.
“I am here today representing the Choctaw County Medical Foundation Board of Directors and these concerned citizens of Choctaw County concerning the management of our hospital, clinic and nursing home by Pioneer Health Service of Choctaw County,” said Jenkins.
He then cited four incidents at the emergency room where patients have had problems from not receiving pain medication for back pain to not having a pillow.
Jenkins also said citizens are concerned about the kitchen at the hospital not being open and that meals are transported from the nursing home to the hospital three times a day.
Another problem he cited, with detail, was local and area businesses not receiving payment from Pioneer for services rendered or it taking several months to receive any payment from them.
“As taxpayers of Choctaw County; we all have a vested interest in the $17.5 million facility that we all want to be successful,” Jenkins added.
“These issues are significant but could easily be fixed, but let’s discuss the major issue of concern that we have and is Pioneer not being able to keep doctors’ employed here in Choctaw County. The fact is we have lost two excellent doctors within approximately the last 12 months. They are Dr. (Elizabeth) Cole and Dr. (Terry) O’Malia, and we are left with only one doctor now who will admit and see patients in the hospital. How in the world doe Pioneer expect this hospital to be successful without doctors?” continued Jenkins. He cited several issues that Dr. O’Malia had with Pioneer.
Some of the citizens asked questions about why Dr. O’Malia left. Lori O’Malia, his wife, said Terry “truly wanted to work it out with them (Pioneer) and he was given a cease and desist letter.”
Jenkins called on the Board of Supervisors to get involved and help find solutions to these problems.
“The reason we are bringing these issues to your attention is because you gentlemen (supervisors) are our elected officials that we elected to run our county. We are asking each of you to get more involved with Pioneer and assist them with either eliminating these problems or to get another healthcare provider group in here that will run these facilities,” said Jenkins.
Before asking questions to the Board of Supervisors, he made a comment about Allen Gamble, the hospital administrator.
“Let me say this about our present administrator, Mr. Allen Gamble, who is our third administrator in a little over a year to a year and a half. I have met with Mr. Gamble several times concerning problems and I honestly believe he is doing the best job he can based on the circumstances he’s working under. I think for the most part of these problems must be addressed by Pioneer’s corporate offices in Magee and with CEO of Pioneer Mr. Joe McNulty,” said Jenkins.
The discussion about the hospital and Pioneer continued with questions from citizens ranging from Pioneer’s payment history to the county, the county’s general obligation bond issue, inventory issues with Pioneer and more.
The supervisors listened to the concerns, made comments when necessary and answered questions.
Jenkins also cited issues with the nursing home and a report from the Clarion Ledger newspaper that he Choctaw County Nursing Center is rated 1 with several deficiencies and complaints.
“Let me say this. No one here wants to see the hospital fail; however, we do expect you our Board of Supervisors to roll up your sleeves and get more involved with Pioneer to solve these problems we are obviously having. If it becomes necessary to find another management group then that is what we expect you do to do, “ said Jenkins in closing.
Board President Chris McIntire thanked everyone for sharing their concerns and said some of the problems heard today the board was aware of and some they were not.
The board approved to enter Jenkins letter, as presented, into the minutes of the meeting.
The Choctaw County Board of Supervisor also approved the following:
-To send Joe McNulty, CEO of Pioneer Health Services, a letter stating lease payment delinquencies and demand payment.
-To increase the Reseal Project by $20,000 to cover additional expenses of a segment of Lagrange Road, as requested by Marty Crowder, county engineer.
-Utility agreement with Delta Telephone for Pensacola Road to allow them to install an unground telephone wire.
-CDBG grant agreement on the Reform Water Association project.
-Recognize and enter into the minutes the settlement agreement between Choctaw County, Pryor & Morrow Engineering, Sam Oswalt & Son and Brandywine Health Services.
-Inventory request to move two tripod floodlights from the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Department inventory to Brent McKnight, emergency management director.
-Solid Waste postage request of $650 maximum per month for the 2013-1014 fiscal year.
-Recognize the Solid Waste aging report.
-Recognize the Solid Waste assessments, deletions and adjustments.
-Travel and registration for the election commissioners and Circuit clerk for training.
-To appoint the Choctaw County Economic Development District Board as the Airport Board.
-Recognize the Health Department’s inspection of the jail.
-To change the inmate rate of $14 per day in the jail for the Towns of Ackerman, Weir and Mathiston to $7 per day if served no meal and $14 per day if served a meal or stays overnight, by request of Choctaw County Sheriff Cloyd Halford.
-Pay raises for Choctaw County employees.