4 health care providers request relief funds

Four health care providers presented their requests Thursday to the Cole County Commission for federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Some of the requests involved proposals to help with future COVID-19 testing in the county, while other requests were to help with costs already incurred during the ongoing pandemic.

Representatives from Jefferson City’s two hospitals — St. Mary’s Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center — told commissioners their requests were to cover expenses for the COVID-19 testing that they’ve been providing.

St. Mary’s Chief Nursing Officer Mike Hyde said the hospital’s request for $319,893 would cover expenses from March through August. St. Mary’s has done 11,000 tests since March, operating six days a week, he said. With inclement weather expected this fall and winter, the hospital plans to adjust its testing site and will need a new car port and tent, Hyde said.

Capital Region Medical Center requested more than $1.1 million to help with costs incurred from March through September and to help pay for testing costs not covered by insurance. CRMC Chief Financial Officer Tom Luebbering said the hospital’s testing volume has risen in the last couple of months, averaging 150-175 tests a day operating six days a week.

Compass Health requested $100,000 to hold a two-day COVID-19 testing event, potentially offering 1,000 tests. Compass Health has facilities on Stadium Boulevard and Amazonas and Metro drives where a testing event could be held, said Peter Lyskowski, executive vice president chief administrative officer.

Dr. Crystal Sullivan, chief clinical officer at Community Health Center of Central Missouri, discussed the center’s $328,635 request for a 33-foot mobile trailer to be used for COVID-19 testing. It would have four care rooms and one central area for staff. The trailer could be used in areas where an outbreak might occur and could also be used for immunization and vaccination clinics.

The health care providers told commissioners collaboration among the providers is key to keeping the local health system working, as well as possible, during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, area health care providers discussed collaborating on a community COVID-19 testing site that would help the hospital testing sites, and they said Thursday they would still be open to having that happen. Hyde said having more entities involved could help with getting testing supplies and other items needed to deal with COVID-19.

“Right now, SSM (Health) Jefferson City has the second-highest COVID volume in our system,” Hyde said.

Cole County Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle talked about paying for testing of non-Cole County residents. He said he had talked with commissioners in other area counties who indicated they were not willing to help with the costs Cole County could be taking on because the hospitals are located here.

Hyde and Luebbering said if the hospitals needed to seek funding from other counties, they would do so but said they would like some guidance. They noted their hospitals serve as many as 10 other counties.

“We expect to see the cases continuing to rise,” Hyde said. “It’ll get worse before it gets better. We not only have to think about how we do testing, but treatment as well.”

“We know COVID-19 is here and we are dealing with it,” Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said. “I think it would be best for us to spend our money on potential long-term solutions.”

The commission made no decision on any of the requests Thursday but plans to revisit the matter at its next meeting Tuesday.

However, Campbell and the commission discussed the potential of the mobile trailer Community Health Center proposed and how the county could work with the center to use the trailer.

The County Commission has set aside $1.5 million of the county’s roughly $9 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding for requests from health and medical care facilities, but commissioners noted they could add to that amount.

Commissioners also decided Thursday to amend a requirement for small businesses applying for CARES Act funding.

The commission initially said businesses that had already received COVID-19-related relief funds could not apply for CARES Act funding. That has been changed to allow businesses to apply for funding to help with rent and utilities costs they may have incurred when most businesses had to close for six weeks in the spring.

The commission said the county will not use CARES Act funds to pay for businesses’ lost revenue or payroll. They have set aside $200,000 for small businesses in this third round of funding, with a limit of $5,000 for individual requests.

Also Thursday, officials from BKD, the Springfield accounting firm assisting the county in meeting its obligations under the CARES Act, told commissioners the county could be reimbursed through the CARES Act for $27,871 in internal expenses that had earlier been paid out of the county’s COVID-19 emergency fund. The biggest part of that, $22,360, paid for personal protective equipment, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and thermometers.

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