ASHEBORO – The Randolph County commissioners decided to wait until June to consider a debt service waiver for this year's payments related to Randolph Hospital. Instead, the exchange with the CEO of American Healthcare Systems, LLC (AHS) at the Board of Commissioners meeting highlighted confusion about their role in decision-making for the healthcare system.
Chairman Darrell Frye and District 3 Commissioner David L. Allen are both on the hospital board. At the May 1 Board of Commissioners meeting, Allen said AHS did not provide written financial reports for the first 18 months and has not put up any decisions for a vote.
He said there was even confusion regarding the title of the board, with an audit listing them as an advisory board, while the covenants specified a board of governors with voting rights.
"We are on a board," he said, "But I think the understanding of the LGC, which was part of this requirement, was that would be the board of directors. Can you help me understand the nature of the board that we serve on?"
AHS CEO Tim Ford told commissioners that they can make improvements and consider items for voting, but the owner of AHS has the say in governance. They have a board meeting planned on May 18 to go over the audit.
"I think we can use that board meeting to meet the intent. I'd be glad to do that, glad to take suggestions back to the owner," said Ford.
Ford presented the waiver request at the Board of Commissioners meeting. According to the request, AHS signed a Promissory Note and Loan Agreement with the County to use money from a $12 million Rural Healthcare Stabilization Program Loan for capital improvements to the hospital on White Oak Street in Asheboro.
Ford says that AHS has fulfilled its operations obligations of its covenants, and qualified to have all outstanding principal and interest for this year to be forgiven by the county.
The payment due on May 24, 2023, is $1 million plus interest at one percent.
Ford told commissioners that the hospital has exceeded its obligations, including 145 general acute care beds, an emergency department that is open at all hours, radiology services, and orthopedic and maternity/OB-GYN care. He discussed the new equipment that the hospital has purchased in the last two years.
"This is at a time when a lot of community hospitals and smaller hospitals are cutting back on maternal health and child health because of finances," said Ford. "I'll fight to keep that in our hospitals as long as I draw breath."
They currently plan to revisit the matter at the commissioners' June meeting.
AHS, a for-profit entity, bought Randolph Health out of bankruptcy in 2021. The Rural Health Care Stabilization loan was approved in May of 2021 to support the sale.