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Pershing Hospital behind on PERS

Anne Knowles

Blaming delays in Medicare reimbursements, the Pershing General Hospital said it is 10 months behind in making contributions to its employee retirement accounts.

Matt Rees, acting administrator of the Lovelock facility, told the Committee on Local Government Finance this month that the hospital is about $300,000 behind in its contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System commonly known as PERS.

At the same time, said Rees, the hospital is awaiting payment of about $300,000 from the federal government for care of Medicare patients.

“There was about a 30 percent increase in Medicare revenue this year to $7 million,” Rees told the panel that oversees the budgets of the state’s counties.

“They set a per diem rate and pay us that.

At the end of the year, we reconcile and see what they owe us.”

Rees said the hospital is expecting payment next month.

The oversight panel was concerned, however, that the hospital’s out-of-state auditor did not report the lag in PERS payments to the state, which it is required to do by law.

“It troubles me there are several nondisclosures on this audit,” said committee member John Sherman.

“I want to talk to the tax department and contact the firm and possibly contact the state board of accountancy.”

Rees replied that the hospital is already considering switching auditors as part of a routine change in service providers.

Rees joined the hospital a year ago as its chief financial officer and has been working since then to help it cut costs.

For example, the hospital previously used contract nurses, costing $60 per hour, to make up for a shortage of nurses.

The hospital then decided to increase its staff nursing pay by 25 percent and to pay for mileage and hotel rooms to attract nurses from outside the rural community.

With those changes, the hospital has been able to fill all of its positions with staff nurses that cost considerably less than $60 per hour, even after the pay raise and new benefits, said Rees.

“We are the only hospital that I know of reimbursing for mileage and paying for hotel rooms,” said Rees.

On his arrival at the hospital, Rees also instituted a policy of utilizing the facility’s acute care beds instead of moving patients to nursing facilities.

Medicare reimburses $1,365 per day for an acute care bed, said Rees, while it pays only $175 per day for a nursing facility bed.

And under Medicare rules, a rural hospital with 50 or fewer beds such as Pershing General is allowed to do that.