Fayette health boards hold competing meetings; health clinic in limbo

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comAugust 20, 2013 

HealthFirst had planned to raze this building at 496 Southland Drive in Lexington and replace it with a clinic.

PHOTO BY PABLO ALCALA | STAFF — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

  • IF YOU GO

    HealthFirst Bluegrass Board: 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

    Board of Health: 6 p.m. Thursday.

    Both meetings will be held on the third floor of the Lexington Fayette-County Health Department, 650 Newtown Pike.

  • BY THE NUMBERS

    $11.7 million: The amount of a federal grant to build a public health clinic.

    $1.2 million: Local health tax dollars given to HealthFirst annually.

    $1.6 million: Dollars owed to the Board of Health by HealthFirst.

    30,000: Early estimates of patients who would be served annually by Southland Drive clinic.

    292: Number of employees of the two groups: 154, health department; 138, HealthFirst.

    Source: Herald-Leader Archives, Board of Health

With the HealthFirst Bluegrass clinic in financial straits and the viability of using a $11.7 million federal grant to construct a new clinic in question, the two boards overseeing public health in Fayette County have scheduled competing meetings Thursday.

The Board of Health and the Board of HealthFirst will meet about a dozen feet apart on the third floor at 650 Newtown Pike.

HealthFirst officials threatened last week, for the second time in six months, not to build an $11.7 million clinic on Southland Drive unless local banks or the Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government provide more money for day-to-day operations.

The Board of Health, which represents the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, is concerned about the future of the clinic and HealthFirst's financial stability — including its use of about $1 million in Fayette County health tax dollars and its ability to pay back over $1 million loaned to it by the health department.

Also, it is set to discuss an action plan requested from HealthFirst that outlines that group's response to issues raised in an investigation by State Auditor Adam Edelen. Board of Health Chairman Scott White had called HealthFirst's previous public responses to the auditor's report "delusional."

HealthFirst

Finances are not on the agenda for HealthFirst's meeting. At 5:30 p.m. the HealthFirst board will discuss whether to dismiss former Chairman Bill Rasinen, who is now a board member. The notice for the special meeting specifies the allegations against him, saying Rasinen disclosed confidential information by talking outside of board meetings about possibly closing the dental clinic with HealthFirst Dental Director Dr. John Landis.

The notice also states Rasinen breached confidentiality rules by discussing the evaluation process of Executive Director William North with the Herald-Leader. According to the meeting notice, the board told Rasinen not to discuss his dismissal with anyone, including other board members. Those discussions were characterized as "detrimental and potentially harmful" to HealthFirst.

Rasinen denied the allegations at a special meeting on Aug. 6 meeting. That meeting was called by HealthFirst, but ended without action after the board voted to proceed only with its attorney present.

Board of Health

At 6 p.m., according to the meeting notice, the Board of Health will meet to "consider options available to the Board of Health to assure that the clinical and management operations of HealthFirst Bluegrass, Inc., are meeting community and management expectations."

White said because HealthFirst's asked for money last week, the board of health needs to act quickly.

North said Tuesday that a joint committee of the two boards has not been convened since June and HealthFirst has not been told what options the Board of Health may be considering.

"It is difficult to meet an expectation when you are not told what it is," he said.

Action plan

The Board of Health had given HealthFirst an Aug. 16 deadline to present a detailed action plan to address issues raised in the state audit which questioned whether Ted J. Mims had been pre-selected as construction manager on the clinic build and whether Mims' 10 percent ownership of the land leased for the clinic building created a conflict of interest.

The audit also raised concerns about HealthFirst overall financial stability, specifically the audit said that estimates of an increase in patients for 2013 were too aggressive.

HealthFirst's 10-page action plan stated procurement processes have been reviewed and a compliance manager hired to make sure bids such as the one for the construction manager job are handled correctly. The plan also said the auditor's report is being reviewed by the Health Resource Service Administration, which oversees the $11.7 million construction grant.

Also, the action plan included two and a half pages praising Mims' performance as project manager and making the case that he has no conflict of interest. As far as the question of financial stability, the action plan states: "The 38 percent increase identified in the auditor's report is not the correct number to use in assessing whether new patient numbers were too aggressive or unrealistic."

HealthFirst is a non-profit funded primarily through tax dollars and it operates a public health clinic serving mostly the poor and uninsured. The $11.7 million grant was received in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The HealthFirst clinic, which officials have said could serve up to 30,000 patients a year, was originally scheduled to open on Southland Drive this summer. Construction has yet to begin.


By the numbers

$11.7 million: The amount of a federal grant to build a public health clinic.

$1.2 million: Local health tax dollars given to HealthFirst annually.

$1.6 million: Dollars owed to the Board of Health by HealthFirst.

30,000: Early estimates of patients who would be served annually by Southland Drive clinic.

292: Number of employees of the two groups: 154, health department; 138, HealthFirst.

Source: Herald-Leader Archives, Board of Health


If you go

HealthFirst Bluegrass Board: 5:30 p.m., Thursday.

Board of Health: 6 p.m. Thursday.

Both meetings will be held on the third floor of the Lexington Fayette-County Health Department, 650 Newtown Pike.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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