By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Debate at Mercy board meeting


Finances were discussed at the monthly meeting of the Mercy board of directors on Wednesday, May 29.

Chief Financial Officer spoke about cash buckets for cash on hand. There had been $10 million in those buckets in 2013 but there is $13 million in those buckets at the present time.

“We spent a bit of it during the construction (of the new hospital) but brought it back up to the break-even operating side,” he said.

“If cash quit coming in today, we would have operating cash for 132 days,” explained Board Member Tim Zwickey. “That’s used as a benchmark. One hundred and fifty days of cash on hand is healthy.”

Board member Sue Pederson questioned the time frame.

“I can’t understand why the benchmark was set at 150 days,” she said.

Board Member Gail Langhorst, who attended the meeting by phone, explained.

“If we don’t have cash, we can’t borrow,” she said. “Lenders don’t care about the bottom line. They want to see cash in the bank. It a wise financial board responsibility to keep cash in a fund to secure the facility.”

Pederson disagreed.

“I don’t think that it is right,” she said. “It is a slush fund.”

In later questions, Pederson asked if there has been a governance audit, as required by the American Hospital Association.

“There should be one,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be done every year. There is a list of what the audit entails.”

CEO Mike Youso explained that the hospital belongs to the Minnesota Hospital Association, which is part of the American Hospital Association, the national organization.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t been done,” he added.

“The audit is for governing bodies,” Pederson answered. “I assume that includes the hospital district board.”

Pederson said that a resident of Silver Township that she represents stated that Trina Lower, who was the acting CEO while there was no CEO at the hospital, had come to work at the hospital right out of high school and questioned her qualifications.

“Does she have accreditation?” she asked.

Lower was present at the meeting and stated she has a bachelor’s degree.

Youso replied that he found that question to be disrespectful.

Zwickey said there are no stated qualifications to be a hospital administrator.

Youso added that Lower had the academic qualifications to be the acting CEO of Mercy Hospital.

Pederson went on to ask about a letter from a Silver Township resident that had been sent to the hospital.

Youso replied he had gotten the letter and shared it with Kelly Goeb, the board president.

“It was some discussion about tax and levy,” he said. “I made the decision not to bring the letter to the board.”

Pederson brought a petition signed by Silver Township residents who want the township to detach from the hospital district over concern about the taxes that are being charged by the hospital on a levy.

“We are a small township,” she said. “We do not have a lot of money.”

Pederson also questioned how the township became part of the hospital district.

“There was no record of a special township meeting where there was a vote to become part of the hospital district,” she said. “I’m willing to bet that it is the same with Barnum and Moose Lake townships. The only people that can approve a tax levy are the electors, not the supervisors. Windemere Township is the only one that met that standard. They did vote. There were only 16 votes between the yes and the no. Silver Township was not allowed to vote. If it had been allowed to vote, it would not be a part of the hospital district. I wish that all of the supervisors could try and get back 59 years of taxes. We need to find an attorney that would work on a contingency.”

Youso replied that, if Silver Township left the hospital district, it would still be liable for $30 million.

“If Silver Township wants out, what is the process?” he asked. “Can it legally exit?”

The board meeting was moved to a closed session for discussions of other topics.

The next meeting of the Mercy Hospital Board will be held on Monday, June 24, at 5:30 p.m. in the board room.


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