1. Archive

Healthcare records are sought

County administrator Chuck Hetrick has given Hernando Healthcare Inc. 30 days to produce records showing the current and projected financial status of Brooksville Regional Hospital, Spring Hill Regional Hospital and PineBrook Regional Medical Center.

In an Oct. 2 letter to company president Steve Wenzel, Hetrick also asked for documents showing the company's policies for providing treatment to the poor, as well as records on the number of patients treated at the company's two hospitals and how those patients paid for their treatment.

The request for records is justified by the county's ownership of Brooksville Regional Hospital and its obligation to oversee the managing of that county asset, Hetrick wrote.

Company spokeswoman Beth Varn said Friday that Hernando Healthcare officials had heard about the letter, but hadn't received it.

"We are pleased that we will finally have a specific request for information," she said.

"Once we receive it, the board will certainly review the request and consider it. And we'll respond at that time."

Hetrick declined to say what the county would do if Hernando Healthcare refused to provide the documents.

"I would think we would then consider our alternatives," Hetrick said Friday. "But I'm not going to pose any threats to them at this time."

The request for records is nothing new. Commissioners have been voicing that wish for months.

However, this is the first time the commission, through Hetrick, has put the records' request in writing.

The commissioners have expressed a mounting disenchantment with Hernando Healthcare management and concerns about the fate of Brooksville Regional Hospital.

Last month, a majority of the physicians on the hospital's "active" staff asked for the resignations of Wenzel, board chairman Joe Mason and vice chairman Dan McIntyre. Commissioners endorsed the request, but the three Hernando Healthcare officials refused to resign.

In a statement, the company suggested that the nearly three dozen doctors did not represent the "over 100 physicians on the staff of Brooksville Regional Hospital."

However, according to a 1991 report prepared by Hernando Healthcare's auditors, the 100 physicians include doctors on "active, associate, trial period, temporary, courtesy and consulting staff."

Only members of the active staff, which now numbers about 37, have any say in matters affecting the doctors.

Thursday, Hernando Healthcare officials announced that the company had borrowed $2.7-million from a debt-service reserve fund to pay its October bond payment. The loan, which must be repaid in 12 monthly installments, reduces the reserve account to $3.2-million. The next bond payment of $2.7-million is due in April.

Hetrick said Thursday that Hernando Healthcare's need to borrow the money for the bond payment was a discouraging indication of the company's financial status.

But without access to the company's records, Hetrick said he can only speculate on the company's fiscal picture.

If Hernando Healthcare accedes to Hetrick's records request, the county will receive the company's most recent internal financial statements, its monetary projections through the end of the fourth quarter of 1992, the company's internal budgets for 1992 and 1993, its 1991 IRS reports and any loan agreements between Hernando Healthcare and its affiliated companies.