Booneville Community Hospital and Mercy Hospital officials have been talking the Booneville City Council was told last week.

Hospital chief executive officer C. David Hill told the council the discussions are "in the very beginning stages."

Hill said the discussions will range from "a management agreement with the hospital or a long-term lease that will make sense for Mercy, for our hospital and for our community."

Further discussion with the council would be premature, Hill said, but he added that any agreement to be made with Mercy would require council approval.

Hill said he would be making a presentation to the council on a viable option at that time. Hill also hinted a union with a larger healthcare provider is reflective of the times.

"Daily in the journals I get I read another rural hospital has closed," said Hill. "We get paid less today than we were yesterday, which is less than we were a month ago. Even that two percent sequestration cost us $5,000 to $6,000 a month. That’s a full time employee.

"The days of independent hospitals being able to survive are getting slimmer and slimmer," said Hill.

Hill prefaced his remarks by recalling the pointed questions posed by alderman Larry Mitchell in the June council meeting and saying the hospital "entertained an arrangement" with Mercy two years ago with documents exchanged between the two entities about the possibility of Mercy leasing the hospital.

"It didn’t go any place. As I look back at some of the documents and the notes in the files, I think we got caught up in some minutia," said Hill. "And frankly, I think two years ago the hospital’s financial situation looked better than it actually was."

Hill reiterated that was partially because of money being kept "on the books" as collectible that was not, and has since been written off.

"That rosy picture, perhaps wasn’t as rosy as it appeared," Hill added.

Of late, the financial picture has been anything but rosy. Chief financial officer Stuart Lisko did not provide the council with a financial statement for June. Lisko said he was working to make sure everything was in place for the fiscal year-end audit set for next month.

Lisko said, however, he expected there to be a loss for the month, although not as bad as the loss for May, which was $377,383 bringing the year to date loss to over $1.5 million.

Lisko said after the auditors have completed their work he expects to have final numbers for the fiscal year that ended June 30 and a statement for the end of July when the council meets again on Aug. 26.

As Lisko said last month, Hill said again last week that the hospital has cut all expenses it can.

"We have reduced expenses to the point that you can no longer reduce expenses without cutting out services," said Hill. "Many of those services are revenue producing services."

Mayor Jerry Wilkins asked if payroll is being made.

"Yes," said Hill. "Everybody is getting paid and we’re up to speed on our vendors. There’s nothing left over."

In a bit of good news, Hill said the hospital has acquired a doctor on a part-time basis at the hospital’s clinic starting in August. Hill said hopes are the arrangement will become a full time arrangement.

In other matters last week the council approved a planning commission recommendation to close a driveway between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Italia.

Alderman Eddie Gossett said he understood there was an easement for a drive way to a home that has long since been removed and that the closure was requested by a developer.