Mendocino Coast District Hospital Board of Directors August 31 2017

Miller complains about negative energy at the meeting

Editorial by Marianne McGee, MA

Perhaps the most shocking moment of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors meeting on August 31, 2017 occurred at the end of the meeting (1:43:07) when Board member Kevin Miller, MD, brought his concerns forward regarding “negative energy in the room”.

Dr. Miller spoke of the lack of clear fiscal information and a lack of transparency regarding personnel issues as fostering the need for attitude “resets” and a desire to transfer knowledge, rather than suspicions.  I have viewed Dr. Miller at the root of a great deal of these problems, given his history of appearing to lead the efforts to sabotage Obstetrics (OB).  Last month he still voted with Kitty Bruning to shove a two tiered November 2017 parcel tax prematurely down taxpayer throats with another caveat to continue OB only if a general services measure also passed.  He is also accused of inappropriately intervening with a staff person over harassment by CFO Wade Sturgeon.  Add to this the ongoing concern that he, like Dr. Campos, are physicians whose compensation is unknown while employed through the hospital.  Over and over again, questions are raised that go unanswered, which contribute to the lack of transparency and suspicion by the community.

Once again, the hospital has started the year in a fiscal deficit, at this meeting hundreds of thousands of dollars were allocated for equipment purchases without a clear path forward.  While Mr. Sturgeon stated inpatient visits are down, he remarked that management staff has “little impact on how many people come through door”, which illustrates part of the problem.  The public’s perception of the hospital does impact their decisions about where to get their care and if not confident they do seek health care elsewhere!

CEO Bob Edwards did say they are now going to start using the software to enable staff to give clearer fiscal information by department, software the MCDH Board has requested for at least 8 years according to Sean Hogan in an emotional appeal to purchase the software a year ago.  It is time to get accurate financial information and to make responsible service decisions based on costs and community needs.  For example, if the public does not believe that 24/7 orthopedic care is necessary, given its expensive costs; maybe MCDH should limit that service as joint replacement surgeries have plummeted.

The MCDH Board, management staff and volunteers will have a special planning meeting on September 23 to begin a planning process, which may be a step forward.  The truth is that a dog and pony show taken to service organizations is not going to get a parcel tax passed.  If MCDH proceeds to truly engage the community, people are going to ask tough questions and will not be satisfied with simplistic answers or hiding behind items that can only be discussed in closed sessions.

This current board and staff has done a good job of convincing us, especially on the myriad of facility issues, that MCDH has been poorly managed for years and that has brought on these fiscal problems.  Yet, here we see many of the same players reemerging to deal with it now.  Rather than solicit new input from people, who have not been active players from the past, the volunteers for hospital committees are either being recycled or recruited from the ranks of recent well to do retirees.

Community members present, the people I think Dr. Miller was referring to, are there out of a deep concern for the hospital and the services it provides to the community.  Lucresha Renteria, Mendocino Coast Clinics Executive Director, shared her updates as that organization works to help resolve financial issues regarding OB and pediatric coverage.  Carole White started the meeting by reading and reminding attendees of the hospital mission and values, a very positive presentation.  Vicki Wellspring answered Dr. Miller by sharing her motivations which are that her life and her potential children’s lives depend on a healthy hospital with OB care.  The people who speak to the MCDH Board are often frustrated, not having their questions and concerns addressed.  These are some of the potentially strongest community supporters who often end up feeling disenfranchised by the treatment they receive.  Once again, MCDH needs to truly listen and respond to the community needs and questions for any new fiscal measures to be successful.

” Kathryn A. Rohr M.D.
561 Stewart Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Steve Lund, President
Board of Directors
Mendocino Coast Hospital District
700 River Road
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
August 28, 2017
Dear Steve:
As a local home owner, I continue to be gravely concerned about the financial situation of Mendocino Coast District Hospital. Attached please find the latest update of the financial graphics the finance committee initiated several years ago when I served on the hospital board. It is my understanding that the current administration has discontinued, without replacing, the review of such data.
Even a cursory review of this data shows an alarming deterioration of the financial health of the hospital. A more detailed review shows that in the period following the bankruptcy, there was an unmistakable trend of improving financial metrics. In the following two years the positive trend has clearly reversed. The overall three-year trend is unmistakably negative and if not reversed will likely lead to a recurrent bankruptcy.
Although the data is itself alarming, a more serious concern is the lack of a coherent strategy to resolve the underlying problems. It is my understanding that the hospital is considering a parcel tax. This is at best a tactic and not a strategy. In fact, it appears that there is no strategy.As I am sure you are aware, the process for salvaging a troubled business starts with admitting there is a problem. This is then followed by careful definition and analysis of the problem. A solution is developed, which requires a strategy with specific tactics to realize that strategy.Starting with tactics without the underlying process almost always leads to failure.
We all understandtoday’s challenges in delivering quality medical care. There are, however, many examples of small community hospitals which have surmounted today’s challenges and are financially viable. Ultimately, fiduciary responsibility rests with the board. I fear that unless MCDH and the board proceed rapidly with a more rigorous approach, MCDH will not be one of those viable hospitals. Thank you.”
Kathryn Rohr M.D.
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