Pioneers Hospital forms finance committee

January 30, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — With officials of Pioneers Memorial Hospital here predicting a budget surplus by year's end, the hospital board has formed a finance committee to help monitor the financial condition of the hospital.

While the hospital has formed temporary finance committees in the past to review its budget, hospital officials said this is the first time the hospital will have a permanent committee that will meet each month.

Dan Heckathorne, Pioneers' chief financial officer, said the finance committee meetings will be open to the public. The first meeting has not been scheduled.

Two hospital board members, Katy Santillan and Aleta Shropshire, will be on the committee.

They will be joined by hospital staffers including Heckathorne and Pioneers' new chief executive officer, Richard Mendoza, expected to start in his job Feb. 5


Heckathorne said of forming the finance committee, "My sense is it will give a subcommittee of the board a chance to look at the financial reports in a more in-depth way."

He said the board and staffers talked about forming a permanent finance committee in the past. He said more recently the topic was discussed by board members and Tom Plantz, interim chief executive officer for Pioneers. Plantz will leave the hospital on Feb. 7.

The finance committee has been formed as the hospital reportedly is starting to recover from a two-year period in which it faced financial hardships.

Heckathorne said the hospital still is facing a shortfall of $294,511, but he said Pioneers is on track to overcome that shortfall and have a surplus by the end of the fiscal year in June.

In November the hospital had a sharp increase in business and had a surplus of nearly $254,000. In December the hospital had a surplus of $144,461.

Heckathorne said each month the hospital experiences a surplus, the overall shortfall is reduced.

During a recent board meeting when the hospital's financial condition was discussed, Santillan pointed out it is important to note that surpluses in November and December were due in large part to the property tax assessment charged by the hospital.

The board last year approved an assessment on property taxes paid by those in the hospital district to cover the cost of a $24 million bond used to build the new emergency, surgery and women's center facilities.

The assessment raises about $1.9 million annually. Heckathorne said it is necessary to charge the assessment to give the hospital time to build its reserves. Once the hospital is stronger financially, the goal is to end the assessment.

"I don't know how quick that will be, but that is the goal," he said.

In regard to the finance committee, Heckathorne said there will be an announcement when the first meeting is scheduled. There will be a finance committee meeting in February.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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