March 8, 2005 If you want increased services at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, lobby your senators for more funding, Roy L. Schneider Hospital chief executive officer Rodney E. Miller Sr. told about 60 St. John residents gathered at the Legislature building on St. John for a public meeting on conditions at the health center.
The meeting was jointly sponsored by the AARP, the Business and Professional Women, and the St. John Lions Club.
At issue are a birthing center and dialysis treatment, long considered desirable by many St. John residents. However, Miller said it was not economically feasible to provide dialysis treatment for Myrah Keating Smith's few patients. He said there are currently about five who make the trip to Roy L. Schneider for care. Miller said it was expensive to hire a nephrologist, a doctor who specializes in kidney diseases.
As for the birthing center, he said the liability issue is huge.
"You have one death in the birthing center, and it's over from a liability and accreditation standpoint," he said.
A 1999 study by Higman Consultants pointed up several problems associated with opening a birthing center. The study showed that only 20 women per year would be expected to give birth at the facility
Additionally, the study showed that in case things didn't go right, there is no quick way to transport the patient to Roy L. Schneider because patients would have to go by the Star of Life ambulance boat. Myrah Keating doesn't have a helicopter.
According to the study, Myrah Keating Smith would also have to hire additional staff for the center, which it can't afford.
Miller noted that cardiac care at Roy L. Schneider was not what it could be because the facility doesn't have the equipment it needs. However, he said that it's coming. The hospital has a cardiologist on staff.
St. John resident Christine Garrett Davis said she could not bring her ailing mother home to St. John because Myrah Keating Smith did not have sufficient cardiac care.
"There was no code blue," she said.
Miller said that although Myrah Keating Smith is currently without a permanent administrator, the facility remains on an even keel.
"We're not closing down and we're not cutting services," Miller said.
The former administrator, Erica McDonald, was fired in January for reasons never made public.
The hospital's performance officer, Adeline Connor, is currently serving as acting administrator.
Miller said he's looking for a native Virgin Islander to replace McDonald.
He said that Myrah Keating Smith and Roy L. Schneider have both learned to do more with less thanks to funding cuts.
"Over the last 2 ½ years, we've lost 30 positions. Twenty were from budget cuts and 10 went to the Health Department," Miller said.
Noting that the facilities were "on critical life support," he said the budget was cut $4.3 million in 2005.
He said the hospital still has trouble collecting outstanding bills, but that the situation is improving.
He said $1.5 million is owned at Myrah Keating Smith.
Miller said the facility is in the midst of upgrading its billing system so it can collect money faster.
He said to increase revenues he's working on a plan to lease out unused space at Myrah Keating Smith to health care professionals like a dentist, a massage therapist or a chiropractor.
"The building is under-utilized," he said.
In response to a question from St. John resident Yvonne Wells, Miller said that any money donated to Myrah Keating Smith stays at the health center. It is not put in an account with Roy L. Schneider donations.
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