Emotions were hot at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Special Board of Directors Meeting on November 19, 2015.
There were few matters for the Board to act on, given that they had not concluded their closed session, so most of the work was approving the consent calendar and professional medical staff privileges.
Tensions began to increase when Dr. Rohr expressed his disapproval of the extent of medical privileges granted to the new pain specialists, Michael Yang, MD, and Jason Pope, MD. I find it that ironic that Dr. Rohr, who ran on a platform that included providing “future care in alignment with community needs” would again voted no, along with Dr. Glusker, when there are over 2,000 official pain patients on the Coast, who have had to drive long painful distances to receive this type of medical assistance.
Tensions continued to rise as citizen Mark Hoagland read a letter he had sent to staff and the Board requesting an agenda item to investigate potential violations of the Brown Act and Roberts Rules of Order, which appears to be a response to meetings beginning with the Emergency Board Meeting called in August to address the issues regarding the contract of Dianne Harris, MD. While some Board Members were not notified until that afternoon that there would be a meeting, somehow the room was apparently filled with her patients, who had enough notice to be there. At later meetings Sean Hogan, Chair, and attorney John Ruprecht had concerns about the process used to come to decisions that day. Dr. Rohr’s later remark that they could basically “shove the rules” was a bone of contention, as well as references to late night phone calls, potential email streams and a lack of respect for the Brown Act and Roberts Rules. As is appropriate to citizen concerns on non-agenda items, the Board did not respond.
The real cause for the tremendous tension in the audience, a packed room of primarily MCDH staff, was the KQED report “The Mendocino Coast fears losing its only hospital” by April Dembosky, which was primarily perceived as negative, given all the positive changes at work. This was especially painful given that The Joint Commission, which assesses the quality of hospitals nationally, just gave MCDH an excellent rating and judged it as an outstanding institution.
Most staff felt the article was reflective of only Dr. Glusker and Dr Rohr’s perspectives. They’re very upset by Dr Rohr’s rowboat analogy, where there are 20 people stranded and only 10 can go in the boat and live. “It’s horrible to make the decision that 10 are going to drown”, he said. “But I’ve got to pick the 10, OK?”
That remark alone set employees worrying that their jobs are in jeopardy at a time when many people are feeling more energized and believe with the new administration, MCDH is undergoing radical, positive change. It is also this attitude that resulted in hospital managers refusing to go before the Finance Committee, citing that people were not being treated respectfully and the concern that this committee was micromanaging staff inappropriately, given the role of the Board is to supervise the CEO, who is then responsible for staff supervision.
Many staff and Board Members expressed their disappointment in both the article, the lack of balanced input and medical staff/board interviews conducted with Dr.’s Glusker and Rohr. Additionally, many unleashed their frustrations and displeasure with the Board’s inability to work collaboratively to improve MCDH. The need for mutual respect was called for.
It is imperative that the community is engaged in the MCDH activities and working to ensure the services continue to exist that allow us all to enjoy the beauty and the magnificent attractions that have brought us all here together. Our area is experiencing many challenges and changes that we must all participate in solving to remain the paradise we want our coast to be now and for future generations!
Footnote: I apologize for losing the last 6 minutes or so to a dead battery on a new camera. My disabled brain didn’t kick in to pull out my cell phone to finish recording the last important 7 minutes when Mr. Ruprecht shared his concerns about the Dr Harris meeting, Dr Kirkman cited the need for mutual respect and a heartwarming story was shared about how maintenance/housekeeping staff has gone from feeling invisible to being of value.