Supervisors to vote on TGH funds

May 18, 2003 11:00 pm

By ABBY SOUZA

Tuolumne County's third-quarter budget review and a million-dollar decision are ahead for county supervisors.

Board members tomorrow will vote on whether to give the county-owned Tuolumne General Hospital $1 million to balance its budget.

County Administrator C. Brent Wallace's office issued a memo recommending the payment, but, like all budget-related decisions, this would require a four-fifths vote by supervisors.

TGH is a county enterprise fund, meaning it is supposed to turn a profit for the county. But the hospital has a recent history of money troubles, and started this fiscal year $5,360,879 in the hole. It has borrowed almost $6 million from the county over the past few years, and the county has given the hospital $11 million that is not expected to be paid back.

But hospital Administrator Barry Woerman, who took over TGH more than a year ago, offered up a staff plan in February to turn the hospital's budget problems around. The plan offers 10 ideas for generating or saving money. He previously warned the board in a memo that this request for $1 million — or a little more — would be coming, because the hospital needed about $1,040,352 to survive through this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2003.

Among the financial recovery plan's 10 projects are adding a dental clinic, adding more beds to the hospital's long-term-care program and reducing staffing hours.

But the revenue from most of these programs isn't expected to show up in the current year's budget.

The county administrative office has recommended in the past that loans to TGH be paid off using tobacco securitization funds — money given to counties from a nationwide lawsuit. This money has been loaned to other county departments to buy equipment, and they pay the money back, making it a revolving loan fund. County staff members say about $1,325,000 should be available at the end of June to pay down TGH's loans and help its cash flow.