The Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors held yet another Special Board meeting on November 21, 2017. Mercifully the Directors had already held their closed session, so the sizable audience did not have to retire to the waiting area for hours, while matters were discussed behind closed doors. This had been the case, at the previous two special meetings, as they evaluated CFO Wade Sturgeon, who subsequently resigned.
Apparently the impetus for this special meeting was to quickly fill the Interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position with a candidate recruited by CEO Bob Edwards. The MCDH Directors choose to wait until they can meet this candidate themselves before making this decision. Per the healthcare district bylaws, this Board does have direct oversight over this position, so another special meeting to interview the candidate will be held on December 4, if not earlier.
A surprise was Attorney John Ruprecht announcing, after 14 years, he will be retiring and introduced his replacement William Adams. Mr. Adams is from Merrill, Arnone & Jones, LLP, a Santa Rosa law firm with several other hospitals as clients. Given the number of legal issues facing MCDH/MCHD now, his experience and guidance may be crucial to the hospital and district.
Several of the closed session items, reported out as only “giving staff direction” without any details, included the federal suit filed by former Human Resources Director Ellen Hardin and a legal claim from Safeway 340B Pharmacy. The Safeway 340B Program is a federal plan which allows MCDH to purchase outpatient pharmaceuticals at a significantly reduced rate. There were problems with the 340B Program between Safeway and MCDH, over the last year, which resulted in a significant loss of revenue to the hospital. CFO Sturgeon supposedly had resolved the previous problems and had said the program was all back on track, so we have no idea what is going on with it. Legal and personnel issues are allowed to be discussed in closed session, so details and outcomes are often not readily available.
The previous Facilities Manager Steve Kobert, who brought to light many of the technical issues on facility/equipment problems and had these projects back on track, appears to have been fired. New employee Nancy Schmidt presented the resolution allowing the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) project to go out to bid and will have the resolution to fix the HVAC System by the next meeting, which is scheduled for December 7. We had been extremely impressed with Mr. Kobert’s knowledge and candor, so we are concerned whether these critical projects can be completed successfully by October 2018.
A resolution was passed to hire Wipfli LLP/HFS Consultants to provide interim Business Office Management services for MCDH. One community member expressed concern about paying $125 per hour for this service, instead of hiring a regular full time employee. Once again President Lund cited this situation involves an undisclosed personnel issue. We assume this is another situation where a long term employee is on leave because of allegations against Mr. Sturgeon.
The one celebratory moment occurred when Clinic Manager Ilona Horton, announced that MCDH won first place in a competition with 48 other hospitals. Called the PRIME Project, goals were set to reduce cancer rates and will be covered in a separate post.