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The Coast Hospital Cabal

At an April 23 Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Finance Committee meeting Robert Becker and Carole White read a prepared statement expressing the view of those who want to maintain local control of MCDH. They titled their document, “Hospital Rush to Affiliation Devalues Community & Planning.”

The statement was signed by Mr. Becker, Ms. White, Katy Pye, Tanya Smart, and Myra Beals, with the addendum that they are members of a group called “Friends of the Hospital,” but they were writing and “speaking only for themselves.” Such a caveat suggested that this handful of citizens didn't have the backing of enough of the “Friends of the Hospital” or it would have been signed with a greater number of names.

This small group made the following claim that April day, “The CEO and CFO have repeated that, while money pressures are real, NO imminent cash flow or financial crises loom that jeopardize our independence or stability.” They provided the emphasis on the word “no.”

Anybody who has been listening to interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Wayne Allen knows that he (Allen) has been saying precisely the opposite. Since his return to MCDH Allen has been pointing out the abysmal financial situation the coast hospital finds itself in. Even if this little cabal doesn't deign to read the AVA, they need look no further than the coastal newspapers to see interim CEO Allen pointing out that “the hospital is on a pace to lose $827,810 in the fiscal year ending June 30, after a $1.2 million loss last year. A broadly outlined proposed budget for next year shows a $1.9 million loss…”

The takeaway: this pipsqueak cabal of Becker, White, Beals, Smart, and Pye aren't beneath completely reversing reality to suit their purposes. Yet their statements imply that they speak for the community. The April 23 missive used the sentence, “The community is off the canvas.”

What this means in the context of the hospital's financial situation and the possibility of affiliation escapes me. Best guess is that the phrase is some sort of comparison to a boxer getting up after being knocked down. What is clear, the presumption of a handful of people who think they speak for the thousands of voters within the district MCDH serves. This wee five-some are a mere minority faction within a relatively tiny portion of the electorate who meet as the so-called "Friends of the Hospital" group.

The “Friends of the Hospital” and this subset of it have not been closely involved in coast hospital matters for all that long. Most of them appeared on the scene about two years ago when a hue and cry went up that MCDH administration was considering closing the obstetrics (OB) department.

This cabal yammers on about the need for transparency at MCDH. In particular they have been critical of the female members of the Board of Directors, and particularly inhospitable toward the two board members of the planning committee concerning the subject of transparency.

Time to set the record straight about Becker, White, Beals, Pye, and Smart. These five have been part of a concerted effort to keep quiet, or hush up if you prefer, the fact that the OB Department at MCDH turns away birth mothers at the door. 

The fairly well guarded secret is that MCDH too often does not have an OB physician and/or nurse on staff or on call when needed. The cabal listed above know this and implore MCDH officials to keep the matter under wraps. This insular little group is so attached to preserving a narrative that MCDH provides just as good OB services as one might get over the hill or in Santa Rosa that they don't want the general public to know that OB services are simply not available at times within the coast hospital. 

So much for transparency.

Back in April when members of the cabal five were calling out MCDH Board members for a lack of transparency along with earlier in-your-face criticisms of the new board members on the planning committee, this hospital observer decided to ask them a straight out question. This took place more or less at the same time as their “Rush to Affiliation” statement was read and handed out at a finance committee. I sent emails or other forms of social media correspondence to the five signers of that “Rush” statement. Each correspondence had slightly different wording, but the gist is summed up here: “I have just read the letter you authored about the rush to hospital affiliation. In addition to that issue, is it the goal of your group to remove one or more of the current MCDH Board members from office and replace them with someone more in line with your group's objectives?”

It has been more than three weeks since the query went out to Becker, White, Beals, Pye, and Smart. Not a single one of them has responded by email or any other social media communication. At least three of them have attended multiple MCDH Board and/or committee meetings since that time. This correspondent was present at each one. One might expect a personal admonishment along the lines of a thorough denial that they are attempting to oust a board member or two. At least I'd expected something like, 'How dare you!'

To the contrary, none of them has uttered a word of denial. The “non-denial denial” of Watergate fame was framed in carefully crafted word play, but in more contemporary times silence has also been used as a similar ploy. Silence doesn't prove these five are definitively guilty of trying to oust duly elected MCDH Board members, so readers will have to decide for themselves.

Left to their own devices some of these individuals might have positive input to offer the coast hospital, but collectively they too often act in a manner comparable to a pack mentality; a pack running amok with self-aggrandizement and self-contradiction.

In other recent MCDH news, it has become clear that coast hospital officials have received multiple phone calls from Adventist Health administrators in regard to opening talks about affiliation. A top administrator from American Advanced Management Group (AAMG), which has partnered with or taken over financially troubled hospitals in Colusa, Coalinga, and west Sonoma County, toured MCDH a week or so ago as well as engaging MCDH leadership in conversation for a half hour or so. As many as four representatives of AAMG will make a presentation at an upcoming MCDH committee meeting. If you only read the AVA in print, that meeting may have already occurred.

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