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New AVH board sees daylight

Eben Harrell

Doctors Greg Balko and Barry Mink learned at the Aspen Valley Hospital board meeting last night that the hospital has emerged from a period of intensive care and is showing strong signs of improvement.

In the board’s first meeting since the two were elected on May 4, it was announced that problems in billing and collection have been addressed and the search for a new hospital CEO is moving forward. The hospital is also potentially only weeks away from a step that will greatly bolster federal funding.

In a meeting that lasted about an hour and was palpably less tense than recent meetings, officials painted a picture of the hospital emerging from its financial crisis.

“I see an energized group of people involved in this process,” interim CEO Bob Karp said. “I think we all look forward to more improvements.”

Chief operations officer Jim Carris said many of the billing problems have been addressed. Thanks in large part to recently installed billing software, he said bills are currently being sent to patients after an average of 12 days. Previously, it was taking the hospital 45 days to bill patients, and some bills were not being sent at all.

This has greatly improved the hospital’s financial situation, according to Carris. At one point earlier this year, he discovered nearly $7.5 million in bills that had not been sent to patients. That number isnow $1.4 million, and Carris said he hopes to push that figure below $1 million in the coming months.

Board President John Sarpa said the pool of CEO candidates has narrowed to around a dozen. The search committee, which now includes Mink, will meet today to begin the process of selecting five finalists. Sarpa predicted the hiring of a new CEO by August.

Karp said the hospital is preparing for a federal survey next week that will determine whether it’s eligible to be designated a “critical access hospital.” Such hospitals, which are rural and have less than 25 patients staying at them at a time, receive total reimbursement for Medicare patients from the federal government (most hospitals only receive partial reimbursement).

Sarpa said although it is not certain how much more money the designation will bring in, it could be as high as $2 million a year.

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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