Citizens and media continue to have concerns on MCDH issues
Editorial by Marianne McGee, MA/ABS
Nothing was on the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Director’s April 27 agenda pertaining to the potential closure of Obstetrics (OB) and the room was filled with concerned community members. Following the inappropriate judgment from Dr. Kevin Miller, exclaiming OB should be shut down when he gave the OB Report to the MCDH Board in March. Additionally, he had requested a closure vote be put on the April agenda to President Lund at their special meeting on April 1.
Whether OB should remain open or be shut down was specifically stated as the one issue the Ad Hoc OB Committee was not supposed to address, although its undercurrents polluted the meetings. The public’s appearance at this April Board Meeting reflects the lack of trust many people feel, given the corrupted process the OB Committee was directed to follow under Miller’s reign and the absolute lack of potential problem solving he allowed.
Concerned citizens again reiterated the need for labor and delivery services here on the coast to build a healthy and thriving community. This necessity emphasized by Lucresha Renteria, Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) Executive Director, as she read a motion passed by the MCC board to recruit another OB/GYN physician. This position could provide additional on call coverage, in concert with MCC’s Dr. Wright, thus helping to eliminate the need for expensive locum coverage. Watch this clip as the MCDH Board members show no emotional response and ask no clarifying questions to this generous offer. To date, MCC has received no feedback from MCDH staff or board members regarding this proposal, which requires a long term commitment by the hospital to continue OB services.
Speakers indicated a willingness to volunteer exploring more creative ideas to keep OB open, even in light of the frustration experienced by those who participated or attended the OB Committee meetings. Committee member Carole White suggested that MCDH take advantage of people who have expressed interest in helping generate innovative solutions. A tremendous number of people gave their emails at the July community meeting and were never contacted. President Lund responded by assuring the crowd the budget process was proceeding and included labor & delivery.
While the mostly older, financially comfortable and predominately male MCDH decision makers continue to focus on the million dollars that OB loses each year, there does not appear to be any movement towards studying other department’s profit and losses. The newly elected younger Board Members are both physicians practicing at the hospital and its clinic while serving on the MCDH board, which negotiates their contracts and are not available for public scrutiny. While hospital physicians have a long tradition of serving on this board, so it must be legal, I have a hard time believing their self interests are not impacted by this service. On the other hand, if a nurse is elected to the MCDH Board, he or she must leave their paid position to serve.
Granted slashing OB gives MCDH the biggest budget advantage because it is not a required service and it does not have any financial repercussions such as a corresponding loss of revenue. Cutting expenses in other departments often results in revenue reimbursement reductions. Now that MCDH finally purchased a computer program that can better track revenue and expenses by departments, perhaps other ways to save money can be identified.
It is abundantly clear that the use of locums in several hospital departments is driving a great deal of debt. The redundant refrain that the cost and availability of housing limits MCDH from hiring permanent professional staff is growing tiresome, comparing the prices of houses in Texas to here is irrelevant. Perhaps a more in depth investigation into the reasons MCDH relies so heavily on travelers is necessary.
Several years ago apparently it was less expensive to hire locums than hire to permanent staff, so personnel reductions were made. Now that trend has reversed and locals, especially nurses, are often so alienated that many prefer to work for lower wages in other medical facilities or travel off the coast to work. Management has indicated it is even difficult to get travelers to come here, so I recently asked a hospital traveling nurse what the word among the agency workers was and she replied, “This hospital treats staff like shit”.
Two unusual items were reported from the closed session, prior to the April Board meeting. The MCDH Board of Directors has rejected the formal complaint filed against the hospital by Ellen Hardin, former Human Resources Director. And the continuing performance evaluation and investigation of CFO Wayne Sturgeon was postponed until such time as he could be present for a legally noticed meeting. These two items have been a source of closed sessions for months, community whispers and given the content of a widely circulated email, appear to be linked. Director Peter Glusker’s censure was related to this item when he released the confidential email relating to Ms. Hardin’s harassment complaint. (For more background read these articles linked below as well as other MCDH reports on www.mendocinotv.com)
Malcolm Macdonald, reporter from the Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA) has done a great deal of research on the alleged links between Ms. Hardin’s legal action and Mr. Sturgeon’s evaluation. He has asked the MCDH Board very pointed questions regarding harassment and investigations. Watch the clip to hear his allegations.
Under community comments at the end of the meeting Mr. Macdonald reiterated his previously asked probing questions regarding other potential areas of malfeasance and mismanagement including additional specific details on the interviews investigating CFO Sturgeon, financial issues and additional harassment accusations implicating CEO Bob Edwards and board members.
The entire MCDH hospital meeting can be viewed below and you can also request staff to email you MCDH Board packets, which contain detailed operational information. The recent addition of Steve Kobert’s Plant Services Report provides a clear and concise update on the status of the many critical facilities issues. As Mr. Kobert stated previously, completion of these projects are long overdue, had inadequate engineering, specifications, budget estimates and execution. It appears that state government agencies providing oversight on these projects were mislead about details, process and timelines which have eroded these powerful governments’ trust in MCDH, which he is working to repair. It is critical for the voting public to keep informed and involved as MCDH moves forward to assure this community has a safe and efficient hospital.