Rangely District Hospital board changes Q&A policy

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RBC | The Rangely District Hospital Board of Directors met on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. Board members present were John Payne, Stephen Petersburg, Nathaniel Polley, and Jason Kurrasch. Prior to the question and answer section Payne announced the implementation of a new policy. The board will allow 3-5 minutes for a question to be submitted, and the board will get back to the inquirer with answers.

“So you won’t answer my questions tonight?” resident Frank Huitt asked.

“That’s right, we will get back with you with the answers,” Payne said, then explained that once the board speaks with Bernie Rice, they will get back to the person asking the questions. Asked about the reasoning behind the change, Payne said, “Part of the reason is because the question and answer time the last few meetings has taken a lot of our time, intruded on a lot of our business time so we wanted to do that and another part of it is if we don’t know the answer to the question, we don’t want to misspeak and say things we shouldn’t say. We want to provide the right answers to the right questions, and we want to be accurate.”

Huitt asked how much Sharma Vaughn and Nick Goshe’s severance packages were. Rice said he would look into it to see if he can give out the information. The HT has filed a Colorado Open Records request for that information.

Huitt said he was pleased they had reduced the requested mill levy increase and used an analogy about being a business owner asking a banker for money after having financial difficulties. Huitt said the business owner asks for a loan to keep operating and claims he’s being as financially responsible as possible. The banker reviews the businesses financials and discovers that the business owner recently gave a $300,000 bonus to his employees and a few employees quit and the business owner gave those employees a severance package.

“If you were a banker would you give me that loan? Because that is what you are doing to the taxpayers,” Huitt said.

“I don’t know if I could comment one way or the other whether I would do that because I don’t know all of the particulars,” Payne replied.

“This is what you guys are asking of the taxpayers and you guys have done some pretty frivolous spending over the past year,” Huitt said.

Resident Mary Dillon shared that county workers traveling between Meeker and Rangely happened upon a man having a medical emergency. One of the county employees initiated CPR and the other workers helped with blankets, etc., while waiting on emergency services to arrive.

“At one point this man’s eyes were glazed over and they thought that this man is dead, there is no way he is going to make it through this,” she said. Rangely paramedics arrived with a machine that did chest compressions and they also had a specialized backboard so that the paramedics did not have to roll the man. County employees involved told Dillon they were in awe of the hospital’s care.

“So when I think about the mill, I would gladly pay whatever it took to save a life. As far as the mill goes, I would like to say to every board member, thank you. Your integrity has been questioned repeatedly and very unfairly. What you have done for this community is out of caring for the community, not to try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate each one of you. Things have been uncalled for that have been said. I would gladly pay taxes to keep what we have. What we have built in this community is a pretty amazing thing. The people in this room who were a part of it, I thank every single one of you. To lose something like this would be a tragedy, I worry about those of us who own homes, what happens to our property values? I’m willing to invest taxes into saving it,” Dillon said.

Huitt said he had never complained about the service at the hospital and that his mother-in-law was a resident at Rangely District Hospital in long term care for several years and she received excellent care. “All I’m concerned about is how the money is being spent,” Huitt said. After a heated exchange between Dillon and Huitt, Payne redirected the meeting to the agenda.

Kyle Wren gave the compliance report, saying that the IT Department transferred everything to a new server but there are still a few glitches. That department is also working on installing Windows 10. Payne introduced Kyle Wren as the new Chief Operating Officer to help with the workload of not having a CEO.

Rice delivered the financial report for the absent Jim Dillon. Revenue is 5% more than last year, gross profit is 5% less than 2018 but 3% better than budgeted. The variances are due to the timing of Medicare payments. Total expenses are 5% below last year and 6% under budget, mostly due to payroll expenses. Payroll expenses are 7% less than 2018 and 5% under budget. A preliminary budget was given to the board members for review. Requested capital expenditures are $429,575 with a contingency of $70,000. The final budget will be approved in December 2019. An anticipated problem is the coming increase in the minimum wage. Rice reports that the 340B program and providers fees are changing and expected to decrease. Net income is showing an increase of $655,000 but Rice cautioned the board that it is not cash; it is the result of depreciation and the principal being paid off on the hospital, meaning they have more assets. They have received $729,571 in capital requests from the departments. Huitt asked if there was a cap on the minimum wage increase. Payne said no and that it was tied to the cost of living and when the cost of living goes up so does the minimum wage. The public can get a copy of the preliminary budget from Jodi Dillon at the business office after Oct. 15.

Kurrasch asked about grants for radiology. Radiology manager Nancy Droste explained there were no grants available this year. Radiology needs a new machine because the current machines are outdated and out of compliance if the hospital is made to go to a direct capture process mandate from the government. Currently the hospital is exempt because of their critical access hospital designation, but that exemption can go away at any time.

“I am preparing for that,” she said. Droste also spoke about new technology in neighboring towns and the importance of staying competitive with Meeker and Vernal which have gotten new machines. Huitt asked how long the machine would be expected to last. There was no definite answer because of the ever-changing technologies today.

The ballot initiative for the mill levy increase will be listed as 6A and will be mailed to registered voters on Friday, Oct. 4. The hospital has “Vote Yes on 6A” yard signs which were paid for using stipend money from the board of directors. Signs can be picked up from Jodi Dillon at the business office. Petersburg pointed out that there was a typo on the ballot language that reads -05 but should read .05.

Senior Life Solutions has a full-time therapist lined up. Justin McGee will be in Rangely on Oct. 8 to help kick off that program. Petersburg noted that the Senior Life Solutions program is projected to make RDH “a couple hundred thousand per year” and help the community. Rice recognized Polley for his excellent food preparation at the employee picnic.

Phone interviews have been conducted for the open CNO position and Rice says those two applicants should be on site the following week. The CEO application process closes next Monday. Payne and Petersburg will be serving as the vetting committee. There are three in-house applicants and 21 outside applicants. Huitt asked if the interviews were open to the public. Rice said he would visit with the board about that.

During the new business section of the meeting Rice spoke about the cost report review. He said he is asking to do a review of the cost report due to some changes that are coming. A review would be about $10,000 and Rice said, “That is money very well spent.”

Huitt asked if he was charged the same if he saw a doctor or a nurse practitioner at the clinic? Dr. Abigail Urish explained that charges are based on the service level or level of care provided.

The board went into executive session to discuss personnel matters related to the CEO position and contract.

The next RDH Board of Directors meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 6 p.m.

By Roxie Fromang | Special to the Herald Times