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County Hospital Chief Outlines Challenges

Tuolumne General Hospital has just completed a very challenging fiscal year, but according to hospital administrator Barry Woerman, there are still many new hurdles yet to overcome in this new year.

A major concern of the administrator is the yet to be passed state budget. Woerman is concerned that the state´s budget problems will mean more financial woes at the Sonora health care facility.

Woerman says attempts to make up for a multi-billion dollar deficit will further erode Medi-care and Medi-cal payments. As it is, Woerman says, the reimbursement isn´t enough.

“We have not been paid adequately for what we do at the hospital,” he said Tuesday following an annual state-of-the-hospital presentation to the county board of supervisors.

“We´re working with the state now to find out ways we can improve our reimbursements so we get paid for what we do.”

Woerman noted 75 percent of patients at Tuolumne General are Medi-care or Medi-cal recipients.

Getting and keeping a qualified staff is another big challenge the TGH administrator and board of trustees expect to face this year – but it´s not a problem unique to the Mother Lode.

“It´s a problem with the state and the country where we don´t have enough nurses,” Woerman says, noting that therapists and doctors are also in short supply and in high demand.

“We´re a small county and it´s very difficult to get people to leave areas where they´re able to get much more reimbursement, and come to these outlying areas.”

A county-run dental clinic, in the planning stages at TGH, is also in limbo as state lawmakers continue to discuss the new state budget.

“The original budget the governor proposed was to cut all dental care completely in the state, which was unrealistic,” Woerman says, adding, there won´t be a way to supply the badly-needed service without help from the state. The prospects haven´t been good so far.

“Until they do pass a budget that identifies what funds will be spent for dental care, we´re reluctant to commit our resources until we know exactly whether or not we can provide that care on a cost effective basis.”

The clinic would provide a local outlet for residents who must now travel to Stanislaus or Merced County for dental care.