Vaughan officials are not in the same boat as Demopolis facility

Published 7:50 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A shortfall in state and federal funding lead leadership at one hospital in west Alabama to announce they could potentially lay off five to 10 percent of their staff and close the labor and delivery unit, but the man in charge of Selma’s hospital said his hospital is ready to weather their own budgetary storms.

In comments earlier this month, Mike Marshall, CEO of Bryan W. Whitfield Hospital in Demopolis, announced the possible changes, citing a loss of $250,000 in federal funding due to the sequestration cuts that occurred in early 2013, along with $636,000 in state Medicaid disproportionate share payments.

The Whitfield Memorial Hospital board has approved a proposal to keep the labor and delivery unit open for the next 120 days, and a task force will be formed within a week in order to find ways to restructure the department so it is more financially viable.

Selma’s Vaughn Regional Medical Center has by no means been immune to a wide range of budget cuts over the past few years — the 2014 budget is $2 million dollars less than that of 2013 — but Vaughn CEO David Sirk said his hospital wouldn’t be making similar cuts to those that are possible in Demopolis in the near future.

“We’ve known these reductions were forthcoming; the first reduction was in the Affordable Care Act, which was passed several years ago, and the Federal Sequestration occurred in early 2013, so we had time to plan our response through our business plan many months before hand,” Sirk said. “We are actually anticipating our employment level to remain about the same and that’s including the hiring of several new doctors last year and some plans to hire new doctors this year.”

Sirk said he is unsure if the possible unit closure in Demopolis would lead to an increase in the number of the deliveries performed at Vaughn.

“We may see some additional delivers because of the closure, but it really will depend on whether the patients in that county want to drive here or drive to one of the adjoining areas,” Sirk said. “We’ll reach out to the hospital and physicians and see if there is any way we can be of assistance, and we’ll see.”

Gerald M. Hodge, who has been a practicing gynecologist in Demopolis for 23 years, said he hasn’t begun to tell his patients to change their plans, as he is not entirely sure the unit will actually close down.

“I’m not telling the patients anything right now. If they ask, I’m just saying let’s wait and see what happens,” Hodge said. “We’ve been through this several times before, and it’s never come about. The hospital admin announces it to the public, everybody panics, and then nothing happens.“

If the unit was to close, Hodge said it would largely depend on where they lived when he would be asked to make a recommendation.

“I would assume it would depend on where the patient lives,” Hodge said. “Because we’ve got them coming from Uniontown and all the way down in Thomasville, and Butler.”