The January 31, 2019 Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors meeting opened to a standing room only crowd with a mix of interested citizens and hospital staff.
The report from their Closed Session was generally the usual items, most of which they can only say were updates. There were a few interesting new items including potential litigation from both the ACLU and LAFCO. There was also a settlement notification with Craig Griffin, which I have not seen before. And, of course, the discussions regarding an Interim CEO and the hiring process are conducted in closed session.
There was a lively mix of Public Comments with some citizens and also a number of current and retired staff. I lead it off with a short version of my recent MCDH Emergency Department experience, informing them that I refused to go to the hospital for 36 hours after I passed out, hit my head and couldn’t hold up my head without getting dizzy. I was in such bad shape it took the Fire Department and MCDH Ambulance to get me out of the house. The reasons I did not go were from previous negative experiences and that I have become intimidated by Board Members, staff and doctors who rant about unidentified citizens spreading unidentified rumors, while staring at us! (You can read the entire saga on the Mendocino TV website)
Ironically, Orthopedic Surgeon Jack Bella followed me with a rant against the Board of Directors for terminating Bob Edwards’ contract, a rant against citizens spreading rumors and the hospital being in financial jeopardy because of the losses incurred by continuing Obstetrics (OB). It is interesting that the two services that rank the highest in the last two community surveys are the need for the Emergency Department and Obstetrics/Labor & Delivery. On the other hand there is a new hospital that specializes in orthopedics 30 miles away, so his threat to potentially leave MCDH does not have the same consequences to the community and hospital that cutting Obstetrics would have! He was followed by journalist Malcolm Macdonald, who said Dr. Bella should leave, without being able to share the back-story to his comment.
A variety of staff and citizens either took aim at the Board regarding the dismissal of the former CEO from his position and/or singing praises about the state of the hospital. Jade Tippett brought up the subject of a hospital policy of staff being forbidden to exercise their rights as citizens, to communicate directly with their elected representatives on the MCDH Board of Directors, as long as it is not to undermine their supervisors. This policy needs to be revised to protect staff’s civil rights and foster transparency throughout the organization.
Several Board members reiterated that this was not an attack on staff; the CEO decision was not made lightly, their anger is understood, a willingness to talk with staff and the need for all of us to work together to build a healthy hospital. The new board members were elected to perform this task. It is outrageous that some would attempt to overturn the voice of the electorate for their own selfish reasons. These Board members know the platforms of their election campaign and have a responsibility to their constituents. Doctor Bellah’s churlish outburst about Edwards’ dismissal leaves one wondering what changed that irked Jack Bellah so.
The rest of the meeting was spent figuring out the operational nuts and bolts such as a new Board needs to deal with. Members are setting meeting dates and times, reviewing bylaws & procedures and taking care of procedural details such as bank signatures.
The items of note are:
- The Planning Committee will now meet at 5:00PM on the second Monday before the upcoming Board meeting.
- Ms. McColley requested a change of venue to Fort Bragg Town Hall. She thought it was worth it to pay building rent and hire the City to video the meetings even though Mendocino TV has been recording MCDH meetings as a community service for 4 years without charge.
- A number of people, especially MCDH staff, objected to the move.
- The Board was reminded that the purported purpose of the administrative wing was sold to voters as a large meeting space. Property owners are still paying on that Bond for that poorly utilized space.
- The Board passed a motion to do more research on the matter.
The Committees are just beginning to meet, organize and set goals. While we missed the Planning Committee meeting, the Finance Committee was a refreshingly interactive meeting, where the aura was one of mutual respect and a willingness to work together to strive for a positive financial future. The remainder of the meeting updates can be watched on Mendocino TV or read in the Board of Directors Board packet. Although there may be differences among those attending, with few exceptions, there appears to be a genuine desire for all to work together to improve the functioning and utilization of the hospital. It was refreshing to see plans form, rather than cans kicked down the road