Closing Obstetrics is off the table!

Mendocino TV NewsUnexpectedly, CEO Bob Edwards announced that closing OB services is no longer being considered.

By Terrence Vaughn & Marianne McGee

   The focus of the OB Subcommittee, under the Planning Committee, is now how to strengthen and improve Obstetrics, which is included in  in the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Budget for the entire fiscal year.  Interested community members are encouraged to join the OB group as well as the Hospital Fee/Hospital Structure Subcommittee which will study and make recommendations on improving the hospital financial situation.

Audience members reacted to the announcement that a contract to conduct phone survey is underway to gauge support for a property tax measure.  Staff and Board Members appeared stunned by the widely held perception that MCDH was holding the community hostage for a property tax initiative by threats of closing OB services.  The audience was glad to hear that staff received a clear message from the MCDH Board to keep OB operating and had ideas about how to engage the community to successfully improve its financial condition and services.  Mendocino TV is concerned about the potential limitations of a phone survey, which may only reach an older, more established population with land lines.  In this social media/cell phone world, this may skew results and exclude vital demographics.  We, along with audience members, encourage the MCDH Board & Staff to utilize modern technology and recognizing Spanish language needs in their outreach and public relations efforts.

Audience member Carol White commented that the public’s perception regarding closing OB and a Property tax is different than the Board may have intended. She suggested they engage in better public relations in the future if they want the community’s support to pass a tax measure. This comment resulted in defensive reactions from Board members and Staff about the difficulties they have encountered getting their messages out.

Lucresha Renteria, Executive Director of Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC), reminded people that many citizens believe new revenue should come from a sales tax, not understanding that only cities and counties have the legal authority to enact a sales tax, so is not an option.  Attorney Ruprecht agreed there is an important need to educate voters on this critical aspect.

Unfortunately, MCDH appears to rely on print news media and e-mail Public Service Announcements as their primary information channels. Hopefully the message was heard and MCDH will initiate a positive media campaign soon to stop the flow of residents seeking their health care needs elsewhere.  The bilingual/bi cultural needs of our Spanish speaking community must also be considered and respected in all aspects of MCDH services and outreach.

The hospital’s financial situation is improving showing increased revenues and growth in several departments.  While last year MCDH ended the fiscal year with a 2 million dollar deficit, the hospital is ending this fiscal year with 2 million dollars in the black.  This is a very positive improvement and does not negate the long term financial needs MCDH does have that need to be addressed.

A great deal of  the tension and frustrations expressed between Board Members and staff  in these meetings have been issues over the lack of availability of information needed to make accurate financial decisions, a fundamental element of their fiduciary responsibilities.  It appears the information the Board of Directors has been receiving from staff for 10 years is incomplete and difficult to interpret.  Board member Sean Hogan brought up a major deficiency in the Hospital’s accounting software that made it difficult to receive the relevant information necessary for effective decision making.  Mr. Hogan expressed his frustration over 7 1/2 years to get information that has been technically available for 30 years.  The ESS module (Executive Support System) wasn’t purchased when the accounting system was installed, (an $80,000 savings at the time) so necessary detailed breakdowns by departments hasn’t been available to the Board or Management Staff for informed decision making for years.  While it may be more expensive now, the board voted to direct staff to research and make recommendations to fix this problem.

Board member Glusker’s concerns over timely delivery of critical information when making decisions was replied to by CFO Wade Sturgeon, referring to contracting limitations of $25,000 per contract needing board approval, a policy that needs revising for him to become effective. A new dialogue between the Board and Staff in which the Board is asking for more and relevant information than what had previously been supplied may expand the possibilities for change so desperately needed.

Watch the video to see all the positive improvements happening at MCDH including: hiring new staff to eliminate the need for expensive locums, critical facility and equipment improvements and the results of a bond restructuring which will add more than a million dollars to the coffers.  Certainly many changes are happening at MCDH as it strives to thrive and stay live, so our community needs to stay actively involved.

Mendocino TV provides this video coverage as a service to our community, which wouldn’t exist without our hospital.  Also we have been broadcasting an excellent video series called The MCDH Wellness Lecture Series from the archives of MCTV on Comcast Channel 3 which runs at 7am every day.

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