Highlights & Low-lights
Editorial by Terrence Vaughn & Marianne McGee, MA/ABS
The actual agendized items at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) January Planning Committee were generally the same updates and information the hospital management has reported on repeatedly.
- Highlights include:
• Dr. Kevin Miller, substituting for Chair Steve Lund, announced this was his last Planning Committee Meeting, although he offered no explanation.
• CEO Edwards reported for Lund that he is working on a new subcommittee and will be ready with members and assignments by next month.
• The telephone survey is underway and results will be shared with this committee.
• Apparently the assistance provided by the ‘Friends of the Hospital’ volunteers, who have been wrongly mischaracterized by misinformed staff & citizens as naysayers, was very helpful to the survey development.
• Many hospital rooms, which have been shuttered by the state because change of use documents and plans were never produced or filed, will not be available potentially for years. This issue reflects the lengthy history of MCDH mismanagement of not following legal procedures, not hiring certified maintenance staff and kicking expensive problems down the road.
• Visibly absent for several months has been the presence of Steve Kolbert, the most articulate and competent employee in years, representing building services. The hospital, we are told, fired him and took their vehicle from him, leaving him stranded, calling friends to pick him up. Regardless of the circumstances it appears the management staff acted in a mean spirited manner, not representative of our community. If he was a contractor, not an employee, this secrecy, by hiding behind the curtain of “Personnel Confidentiality”, should not apply. Where they are going to replace him from is anyone’s guess. The person filling the position now seems woefully under qualified to discuss the complex building maintenance issues.
Is she come equipped with the different skill sets that are relevant to the complex technical issues related to performing the tasks of a stationary engineer?
Can she navigate her way through the technical and regulatory maze required to replace, say, an Automatic Transfer Switch without delegating or contracting that decision to some other professional?
What certifications does she hold?
• It appears the capital projects underway are coming in at increased costs of about 25% over budget.
• There are now over 10 million dollars in additional critical capital repairs and equipment pending in addition to those currently being addressed.
• The lack of appropriate Electronic Health Records (EHR) equipment and software at MCDH is currently resulting in financial penalties. Additionally, funds to pay for the upgrades are not identified yet and more loans cannot be taken out because it will bring the bond covenants out of compliance.
Most interesting were the comments made to the Committee from its members. John Allison again brought up the various planning documents and lamented about how the community does not really understand how much is being done and why the $80,000 plan was shelved by the new management. CEO Edwards went through his usual explanation of the processes and the changes made including that this committee will be developing a new one.
There are two elements in this discussion that cause us grave concern as Mendocino TV struggles to bring transparency to MCDH and its community. Both Mr. Allison & Mr. Edwards appeared to be congratulating themselves for having hit some of the goals in both the old Quorum Plan and the October 2016 plan. To congratulate yourselves retrospectively, for accidentally meeting some strategies and goals without touching on the elements NOT performed, is of Trumpian arrogance. The previous Quorum plan was disliked by management staff, which did not appear to like the accountability aspect, calling it “too subjective”. Additionally, so much planning, budgeting and quality issues are done behind closed doors without transparency, which contributes to the trust issues that permeate the community. We are again asked to go forward with blind trust, when all current MCDH problems appear to be related to ineffective management and lack of effective leadership from decades past.
Member Carole White is a breath of fresh air in a room too often infused with ego and arrogance, as she directly identifies the issues she sees within this group and its process, or lack thereof. She pointed out that everyone has a different perception of strategic planning based on their personal experiences, so that the discussion needs to begin there. Carole identifies the breakdown of communications and trust with the community and correctly points out that until that is reestablished, MCDH will struggle with, and conflate disinformation and misinformation. They need to have time to discuss their differences and how to progress. While they are listening to a great deal of information, she does not feel that her talents and gifts are being utilized. MCDH bylaws do describe the committee’s mission although the purpose of this committee, in practicality, is not clear. And Ms. White points out; again, that MCDH needs to be better at collaboration and communicating within the community. Rhetorically she asked “What planning are we doing?”
Look at the history of MCDH doctors and administrators of past, the continuation with secret salaries to providers (and some MCDH Board Members) not available for public scrutiny, problems kicked down the road, expenses rise drastically, chickens are coming home to roost as cans have been kicked down the road until the road ends with no plans for the future. And then, everything becomes an emergency.
Everything we see from the MCDH Board of Directors’ focus in these meetings is the health of the hospital, not the community. The hospital is uniquely ill equipped to talk about community health when in such financial straits. So, looking at the hospital for leadership is a bad idea, since it so inwardly focused on its myriad of internal issues. We cannot look to leadership from MCDH in our community’s health until they handle their sickness within.
With MCDH in such disarray, it is time to start recruiting new MCDH/MCHD Board Members, who are independent from the hospital, the district, the budget and the baggage.