Rohr resigns,public input needed!
Opportunities abound at Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) as the Board of Directors dealt with sometimes contentious issues at their June 30, 2016 meeting. Beginning with the resignation of MCDH Board Member Dr. Kate Rohr, seeking input on the potential closure of Labor & Delivery and looking for Task Force members to study hospital fees and structure, the board has tremendous opportunities for citizens to become involved while the hospital faces critical choices on its future directions.
Chair Tom Birdsell outlined in great detail the processes available to fill the Board vacancy, which given the legal requirements of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District, is specific and involves the County Elections Department and government regulations. Applicants will be sought to temporarily fill the position, which will be on the November ballot along with the seats currently filled by Tom Birdsell and Sean Hogan. Director Hogan voted against the process, stating it should be left vacant until the November election, reasoning it was not enough time to get through the steep learning curve. Former Board Member Patricia Jaurgui-Darling pointed out that there are many well qualified former Board Members in the community, leading me to think she may be interested in that seat herself, especially given how outspoken she was throughout the meeting.
Patience with Dr. Glusker appeared to be rather short as he opposed the purchase of critical equipment on the already approved capital budget list because he wanted it to go back through the Planning Committee, which he chairs. Board Member and former MCDH nurse Kitty Bruning was very vocal about the state of some very old equipment and its impact on patient safety. CEO Bob Edwards chimed in that he didn’t want his family to be exposed to the risks of equipment so old that parts are not even available. While Dr. Glusker voted no, it passed 3-1.
The hottest topic of the evening raised by Mr. Birdsell was an ongoing issue of some board members inappropriately asking MCDH staff and contractors for data and information. With Dr. Rohr gone and the closure of Labor & Delivery as an example of the problem, it became quite clear that this topic was directed at Dr. Glusker. Wade Sturgeon, CFO, and Attorney John Ruprecht were very vocal and specific about the negative impacts these ongoing requests have including wasting time and money as well as increasing confusion, misinformation and frustrations. Audience members jumped into the emotional fray, including Tanya Smart, Malcolm Macdonald and Patricia Jaurgui-Darling, who chastised the board for its lack of decorum and contentious behavior. Mr. Macdonald spoke of unhappy employees and negative situations that exist at MCDH, revealing that he will be publishing a more specific story in the Anderson Valley Advertiser next week. Watch the video to see the fireworks, which resulted in a 3-1 motion (Glusker being the lone no vote) that requests for staff information should be routed through the CEO, which is the only staff position the Board supervises.
There were a number of other critical issues in the well attended meeting, including opportunities for citizen involvement. Rather than forming an OB Subcommittee as per the agenda, Chair Birdsell is collecting names of people who want to be involved in problem solving and solution generating around the financial crisis associated with Labor & Delivery Services. Attendees made it very clear this group needs to be extremely inclusive and transparent as this is a public safety issue and decisions should be made after careful, extensive deliberations. There will be a vital public forum on July 12 from 6:00-8:00 PM at Cotton Auditorium to get public feedback on the potential closure of Labor & Delivery.
The other volunteer option is to join the Hospital Fee/Hospital Structure Task Force, which needs more input from citizens not affiliated with the hospital now. This task force is a result of the decision not to pursue another bond measure and to explore potential savings by changing the hospital structure to a nonprofit organization with its own Board of Directors.
There were also substantial financial issues presented and decisions made. The Board voted 4-0 giving staff authorization to refinance the hospital bonds, which will result in approximately 1 million dollars in savings over 13 years, by lowering the interest rates. This action will not change the dates the bonds will be paid off and most of the savings will occur in the first 4 years. While the overall financial picture is not as gloomy as it once was, some of the more positive gains are onetime adjustments or payments. While it appears the fiscal year will end with a positive bottom line rather than a projected loss, there are some major unfunded expenses in the future, including a substantial overpayment from MediCal that will need to be repaid, capital purchases and repairs. It does appear that staff has really been turning over rocks to find every savings or potential income increase to keep MCDH afloat!
This community absolutely needs a healthy hospital to keep our dreams of living in this beautiful paradise alive! The coast is weathering a thorny transition from an economy that feasted on natural resources, primarily timber and fishing, to one surviving on sharing those same assets with others. To keep this dream alive we, as citizens, must all collaborate, cooperate and contribute.