By Fred Hiers
Ocala Star Banner
It has been more than three weeks since the Marion County Hospital District opened its $2.5 million grant process, but no group has submitted an application yet. The deadline is Dec. 31.
District trustee grant Chairman David Cope said at this point he isn’t worried that no one will come knocking on the district’s door with hat in hand. The application is several pages long and requires detailed explanations about how the money would be used, who in Marion County would benefit, and how the applicant would measure the impact of its efforts.
“I’ve talked to two or three people…who will be applying and it’s going to take them several days to a week or more …to do the applications,” Cope said.
Cope will become the district’s chairman in January, replacing Larry Strack, whose chairman’s term is scheduled to end. Marion County commissioners appointed Cope as a trustee in 2012. He is a real estate developer.
“It’s going to be a very interesting how this shakes out. We’re going to have to get busy in January and review these applications,” Cope said during the trustees’ monthly meeting this week.
“It’s going to be some exciting times ahead,” he said.
Cope said he doesn’t know how many groups will apply for the money or how many will focus on issues that the district deems important to the county.
Ed Dean, a consultant to the trustees who has been working on the grant process, said he is confident there will be plenty of applicants.
“I’m confident many organizations are viewing the grant applications and preparing their responses,” he said. “It’s a very time consuming process.”
This will be the first round of funding since the district leased Munroe Regional Medical Center to Community Health Systems (CHS) in April 2014. As part of that deal CHS gave the district $212 million to improve local healthcare.
To determine the community’s health needs, the district hired WellFlorida, Inc. to prepare the 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment.
The district announced these priority areas:
• Obesity prevention
• Smoking and tobacco use cessation
• Diabetes prevention and treatment
• Prevention and stabilization of mental/behavioral health issues which will reduce emergency room visits
• Prevention and treatment of adult dental issues, which will reduce emergency room visits
• Collaborations among healthcare groups to educate Marion County residents about treating and preventing the above mentioned issues
The district said it would give priority to grant applicants who propose healthcare projects addressing these concerns.
Meanwhile, Cope said he already has met with representatives from the University of Florida dental college about establishing a means to provide adult dental care here to the poor.
In 2012, there were 15 Marion County emergency room hospital visits for dental problems for every 1,000 people living in Marion County, and one hospitalization per 1,000 people.
Cope said the hope is to establish a dental pilot program in Marion County similar to the one UF has in Alachua County.
In unrelated hospital district business:
+ Trustees hired Verando Engineering Co., Inc. of Ocala to review Munroe Regional Medical Center and the hospital’s Timber Ridge emergency facility.
The hospital district leases the two facilities to CHS. The trustees said they wanted to take stock of the two buildings to ensure CHS maintains them as required by the lease. The trustees will pay Verando $80,000 for the first evaluation and then $20,000 for subsequent evaluations each year after that.
Cope said the trustees “owed it to the public” to ensure the buildings are maintained.
“We need to have an eye on that,” he said. “If you have such a physical asset…of that value…you don’t want to pinch pennies.”
+ The district’s investments increased $4.4 million during October, putting the portfolio up about $6 million for the year. The stock market tumble during late summer had cost the district about $5 million in losses.
+ The district’s search for a new executive director continues. Jon Kurtz’s contract will end in April. Kurtz notified the trustees in September that he would not ask to renew it.
Trustees pay Kurtz $10,000 monthly for his work. That money also covers his staff costs. The position is part time but Kurtz said that with the growth of the district’s work and its relationship with the newly formed Marion County Health Alliance, the job could well be a full-time post.
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