February 27, 2013 Edition

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JP's hear report on proposed
LHS assisted living facility

Susan Johnson
Contributing Writer

Lawrence Health Services is looking into the possibility of expanding its list of services, according to CEO George Fray.

Speaking at the Feb. 19 Lawrence County Quorum Court meeting, Fray gave an overview of the county's medical services and spoke about a possible expansion to include a 36-bed assisted living facility that would be constructed across from Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

He stated the reason behind the idea was to offset loss of revenue at the hospital and nursing home.

"Seniors (and their families) have a lot more choices today - such as home care agencies," Fray said. "And we're feeling the impact of those choices."

Fray presented a five-year summary of Lawrence Health Services and stated the nursing home, which in the past had offset the county's hospital deficit, was now "breaking even" and no longer able to carry the hospital, thus, the need for a different approach to healthcare.

"The nursing home has to have 150 beds filled in order to make money," Fray said. "At present we have 130. We're licensed for 179, and right now we have 130."

He added the 25-bed hospital is averaging 14 patients.

Fray also listed bad debt as a factor to the losses, especially in the emergency room. An additional contributor to loss of revenue, according to Fray, is the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which lowered the Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rate.

He said a consultant firm would be on hand in the next 90 days to assess the plan.

Passing of road foreman acknowledged

Justices also noted the recent death of longtime Lawrence County Road Department foreman Keith Freeman.

Keith, who was 69, had served as foreman since 2000. Prior to being named foreman by then County Judge Alex Latham, Freeman had worked for the county off and on throughout his life.

His brother, County Judge Dale Freeman, said Keith had battled with cancer in recent years, but apparently died of a heart attack.

During the Feb. 19 meeting, he was described as the "most dedicated employee" the county has had.

Court members discussed ways to recognize Keith for his years of service.

During the meeting, justices also discussed loss of revenue to the E-911 services, chiefly, more usage of cell phones, thus lowering the revenue generated from the landline usage fees.

Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman said Lawrence County was not alone in "shortfalls" to the E-911 Department. Judge Freeman said Rep. James Ratliff and Sen. Robert Thompson were attempting to "address the problem."

Also in E-911 matters, justices gave the go ahead for E-911 personnel to attend training to receive certification, which would enable the department to receive grant money.

In other business, the court:

  • approved an appropriation ordinance for the transfer for the sale of a 2007 Dodge Charger from the Randolph County Sheriff's Department to the Walnut Ridge Police Department.

  • voted to allow the County Assessor's Office to create an additional budget. Lawrence County Tax Assessor Farrah Matthews said she was notified in January that the office would have to consist of two budgets, an office budget and an appraisal budget.

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