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The Health Center Meeting

DISGRUNTLED locals filled the high school cafeteria late Monday afternoon for a meeting of the Anderson Valley Health Center's board of directors. Complaints about the ominous direction of the Center, which seems to be lurching inexorably in the direction of bankruptcy, echoed those expressed in a recent public letter by Eric Arbanovella, a volunteer with AV Ambulance, whose wife, Cindy, works at the Center as a nurse practitioner.

THE BOONVILLE-BASED CLINIC is presently operating under a kind of conservatorship provided by administrators from the Redwood Coast Medical Service based in Gualala. This administrative arrangement costs more than a full-time director costs and is seemingly disapproved of by the Anderson Valley community. The response from the interim managers and the board was that all costs of all kinds continue to go up and up as income remains flat while it's difficult to attract doctors and other qualified staff to Anderson Valley because housing is so expensive, the cost of housing being the major disincentive

THE BOARD, chaired by an embattled and sympathetic Ric Bonner, often deferred to Diane Agee, Redwood Coast's crisply articulate and formidable CEO, who attempted to explain that a combination of bureaucratic demands, many of them federal, and a general reduction in the federal grants that fund rural clinics, has imperiled Anderson Valley's clinic. The board's and Ms. Agee's explanations of the present crisis were met with skepticism and even amazement by the audience, many of whom remain outraged at the thuggish dismissal of the capable and much admired Kathy Corrall, a long-time clinic staffer. (Ms. Agee said she and Clinic management had merely been following lay-off protocols signed off on by their legal counsel. Mrs. Corrall, with no notice, was told to hand over her keys and marched out to her car like she was some kind of criminal. If this kind of cruelty is standard operating procedure at, of all places, a tiny, rural healing center, this country is farther along towards police state functioning than we might think.)

ANOTHER COMMON COMPLAINT was the lack of financial and operating candor, that information about the current status of the Health Center is impossible to obtain. That recurrent complaint was met by board members and the fill-in administrators promising to be more transparent. Every other complaint was met with an answer blaming lack of money or impossible federal mandates.

WHAT FOLLOWS is an edited summary of complaints about the Health Center's present functioning as enumerated by Mr. Arbanovella:

SINCE JUDITH DOLAN retired as AVHC’s full-time executive director in 2011, the AVHC board of directors has hired three part-time executives to manage the clinic: Diane Agee, executive director; DaveTurner, CFO; and Lucresha Renteria, Chief Operations Officer. Under this management, critical systemic problems at AVHC have reached a stage where continued inaction will cause the clinic to either fail outright or cease being able to provide acceptable patient care.

1. Inadequate hiring practices

2. Inadequate communication with community and staff

3. Broken IT system

4. Zero admin time for providers

5. Negligible day-to-day management.

6. Kathy Corral’s termination

THE FULL TEXT of Mr. Arbanovella's letter appeared in last week's paper and is posted on-line at theava.com.

NATURALLY, the editor of your beloved community newspaper can't resist throwing in his two-bits. I speak, of course, as a chartered '76 supporter of the Center, albeit kind of chintzy as a donor, but I think the Health Center took a destructive wrong turn when it borrowed money to expand. That move caused huge financial pressures that previously hadn't been beyond the community to meet. It also, if I'm not mistaken, elevated us in federal status resulting in the usual deluge of imposed, horsebleep bureaucratic requirements. Try it another way, as the bishop said to the barmaid, but I'd like to see the operation somehow scaled back to a Center we can support on our own, as we mostly once did. I'm also worried that if the Center is forced to close, it will be ensnared by the Adventist octopus presently extending its grasping tentacles into every area of Mendocino County, which would end charity medical emergency care and cost the rest of us the max. And I'm worried that without the Center it would be that much more difficult for the absolutely essential Anderson Valley Ambulance to function.

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