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ROCK ISLAND — Hope Creek Care Center now owes $5.3 million in short-term debt and is using Rock Island County's credit card to pay the staffing agency that provides its nurses. 

Rock Island County Administrator Jim Snider told members of the county governance, health and administration committee Monday morning that the county-owned nursing home owed GrapeTree Medical Staffing $100,000 for nursing placement services. 

Officials at Hope Creek, 4343 Kennedy Drive, East Moline, used the county's credit card to make a $22,000 payment on April 5 and plan to pay another $20,000 on April 18.

"We literally took our credit card — because we don't have the cash right now — we have a $16 million budget, but there's not enough cash flow to pay a $50,000 bill. There's not enough in reserves or savings. This got us by the last few weeks; that's how tenuous the situation is," Snider said.

He said the amount that must be paid to the staffing agency increased when the demand for nurses was high. "We rely on (GrapeTree). You have to have nurses in there. But the numbers are staggering with the shortage of nurses," he said.

Snider said the county paid $1 million in 2018 in agency costs. 

In January, County Auditor April Palmer and County Treasurer Louisa Ewert reported the facility was $4.6 million in debt, $700,000 less than Snider reported Monday. 

"The most difficult issue we are facing right now is vendor payments," Snider said. "We have well over $1 million in what I would categorize as credit card debt. We're not paying our bills, and collectors are calling us. The primary source is (staffing) agency costs. 

"We're doing everything we can to be accountable and responsive to the patients," Snider said. "Our administrative staff at Hope Creek is extremely top-notch.

"It's a tough business. We need to run it like a business, and we need to be accountable like a business because these are taxpayer dollars that are being drained."

Snider said the facility currently owed $1.7 million to vendors, $1.3 million on tax anticipation warrants, $1.7 million on an internal loan from the county's liability fund, $360,084 to the health insurance fund and $87,000 on a loan from the liability fund. 

Accountant Bill Gabelmann of the Bettendorf accounting firm Honkamp Krueger presented committee members with a financial report on Hope Creek that shows the facility had $43,835 cash on hand and $355,000 in investments at the end of February. 

"Net operating costs are running a loss of about $460,000 per month," Gabelmann said. "The county, of course, supplements that in the form of property tax revenues."

Gabelmann's report shows total operating expenses for the month of February were $981,733.

Another wing closed

Snider said a second wing was closed at Hope Creek when a "handful" of patients living on the second floor were moved to the first floor. The first wing was closed in 2017 as a cost-saving measure when the patient count dropped. 

The 245-bed facility currently has 141 patients. 

"It was a simple management decision to get all the patients on one level and have efficiencies with staff," Snider said. 

Interim administrator working

Snider also said Hope Creek was on its second interim administrator after Rueanne Mills resigned March 6. Mills, who lives in Naperville, was paid a rate of $70 per hour, plus traveling expenses. 

Snider would not comment on reports that Mills did not get along with senior staff members. He attributed Mills' departure to her contract running out. 

"She was a very professional, competent administrator," Snider said. 

Roger Herman began March 15 as the new interim administrator, filling the shoes of Hope Creek Administrator Cassie Baker, who resigned Feb. 15. 

Herman is being paid a rate of $62.50 an hour plus mileage to and from his home in Washington, Ill. The county also covers hotel room costs and meal reimbursement but does not pay into health care or pension contributions for Herman.

Snider said the county would not search for a permanent administrator until the results of a three-month-long cost benefit analysis by Management Performance Associates (MPA) was reported to board members at the May 15 committee of the whole meeting.

The St. Louis firm was hired by county board members in January at a cost of $29,000. 

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