JFL’s Proposed $77 Million Budget Intends to “Do More With Less”

Executive officers of the Juan F. Luis Hospital met on Tuesday to present their 2023 fiscal year budget to senators who were curious about the status of JFL North and perturbed about the lack of documentation on behalf of the hospital.

JFL’s CEO Douglas Koch said that the 2022 budget will end with an expense of $78,230,260 and that the 2023 budget is $77,889,083. He spoke about JFL’s financial overview and plans, priorities for the new fiscal year, and some accomplishments made by the hospital. Koch said that the new budget is based on the anticipated potential revenue decline during the transition from the JFL main building to JFL North.

Douglas E. Koch is the CEO of the Juan F. Luis Hospital. (Photo courtesy of the Virgin Islands Legislature)

“First, we need to move to JFL North as soon as possible,” said Koch. “Our next top priority is to return to the basics of hospital operations. We need to ensure that we have the right processes in place and hold our team members accountable for following them.”

Daryl Smalls, executive director of the Hospital Redevelopment Team, said of JFL North that “we are close to the completion of the construction of the mechanical building which will house the critical systems required for the temporary hospital to operate.” He added that it is 60 percent completed and will be operational in August this year.

Koch said that JFL should “transition from providing mostly inpatient services to an environment of providing outpatient services and different access points for our community.”

According to Koch, JFL’s payables decreased from $33.8 million in May 2021 to $25.3 million as of the end of May 2022. The hospital is expected to end the 2022 fiscal year with a revenue of $80.1 million. However, there is approximately $40 million expected in uncompensated care and over $10.7 million owed through interagency debt, with the Bureau of Corrections, Adult Correctional Facility, and Wind of Court collectively owing the majority of money that totals $6.7 million, followed by the Department of Labor owing $3.7 million.

“Does this truly represent the needs of the institution,” asked Sen. Kenneth Gittens of the proposed budget. “This cannot be a true representation of your needs.”

“JFL has more needs than our budget can allow. Thankfully we work within the confines of our budget, as we are required to,” said Koch. “We are putting forward a budget that allows us to continue to maintain. We need to continue to maintain. We need to continue to improve our budget that allows for us to do more with less.”

Gittens replied, “I’m trying to help you here … I don’t want no one to ever come here before this legislature again and say that they can do more with less.”

Senators also inquired about wage increases for employees, allocation of JFL’s revenue, backup operations, contracts for vendors, overtime, and equipment costs.

One anticipated expense listed in the proposed budget is a payment of $4.7 million due to Advanced Radiology. However, committee chairman, Sen. Kurt Vialet, questioned why that was still owed as a settlement agreement was met between both entities and the Attorney General’s office.

Sen. Kurt Vialet chairs the Committee on Finance on July 13, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Virgin Islands Legislature)

“We’re not supposed to owe an additional $4.5 million dollars. It was a settlement agreement,” said Vialet. “This was to be able to wipe that debt off of the books and close it once and for all … It should be written off of your books.”

“The entire payment has been made. What we are waiting for is a letter basically, verification, that the second payment has been paid so we can pull it off our books,” said Koch.

“Whatever was appropriated was paid,” said Interim Executive Vice President of Finance, Rosalie Javois. “The technicality is an accounting technicality in that paperwork did not properly trickle down to my office to completely write it off the books.”

Senators commented that proper documentation should be kept to ensure accountability.

“With paying out more than $1.2 million dollars in just you guys sitting here before us salaries, there is no excuse for lack of documentation, functionality, or transparency within the institution,” said Gittens.

“We have people that move from positions to positions, in and out. But it’s critical that there is some documentation or some level of continuance, you know so that these things don’t fall on the wayside,” said Sen. Novelle Francis.

Sens. Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Javan James Sr., and Janelle Sarauw were also present for the hearing.