Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) projects an $835,000 budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. That was the bottom line of an April 26th informational gathering held just before the MCDH Finance Committee meeting had to be canceled for lack of a quorum.
One could look on the bright side of the numbers, at the end of June, 2016, the hospital is likely to have lost only slightly more than $20,000 in the current fiscal year. Though Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon stated revenues should go up in the upcoming year so, too, will operating costs.
Sturgeon claimed that his estimates for potential revenue were stated on the conservative side. If one wants to look for financial hope in the upcoming year, gaze no further than the line in Sturgeon's “Budget Notes” that says, “Based on the evaluation of our charges over a 6 month period, it is estimated we under coded ER [Emergency Room] charges.”
How much one might ask? Sturgeon answers with, “$4.4 million over a 12 month period.”
Questioned later about the matter Sturgeon said the six month period started about six months before February, 2016. There have been rumors and even statistics that hinted at major billing errors in the past at MCDH, but this multi-million dollar error of omission occurred under the tenure of Sturgeon and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards, who started on the job in April, 2015. Sturgeon joined MCDH a couple of months later and it should be said that some of MCDH's short term upturn has been due to Sturgeon and his underlings finding significant amounts of savings and improved billing methods in some areas.
Losses of a million and a half dollars (or more) in the ER Department were cited by Edwards as the chief reason to look into an attempt at passing a parcel tax increase for the Mendocino Coast Health Care District. However, the parcel tax scheme is on hold until at least next spring and, as reported here earlier, Edwards is now promoting a switch to a hospital fee provider system that Edwards touts as a multi-million dollar annual gainer for MCDH. In order to make the switch to the hospital fee provider system MCDH would have to restructure itself under an appointed non-profit board that would make the day to day operating decisions for the hospital. There are rumblings of dissent in and outside the coast hospital by those who see this as a further power play by Edwards. Some of those questioning the hospital fee provider system may very well be on the MCDH Board of Directors. That publicly elected board might lose much of its decision making power if a non-profit board is set up to monitor the hospital as well. The presumed recipient of more power and control in all of this would most likely be the CEO, Bob Edwards.
Anyone searching for more signs of acrimony within MCDH's current power structure need gaze no further than the April 28th MCDH Board meeting agenda, under New Business, to an item entitled “Review and Approval of Medical Staff Bylaws.” Board member Sean Hogan moved to have the matter tabled and Dr. Peter Glusker (recently retired neurologist) seconded while questioning why these bylaws were not written in accordance with California Medical Association (CMA) guidelines instead of the California Hospital Association (CHA) guidelines that chief of medical staff John Kermen (anesthesiologist) and his committee seemingly followed. The difference being that the CMA represents physicians and the CHA can be looked on as representative of hospitals as a whole, thus that organization could be said to advocate more for the administration of hospitals rather than physicians themselves. All of this comes on the footsteps of MCDH's Medical Executive Committee balking at a full on round of mediation with the Board and administration, a mediation recommended for by the Board's legal counsel.
One bit of good news comes as a result of the recent closure of Colusa Regional Medical Center. With just forty-eight hours notice MCDH sent a team to Colusa that ended up recruiting two nurses and a pair of diagnostic imaging employees to the coast. More hires resulting from another hospital's misfortune may be pending. In addition, MCDH may be able to acquire some of Colusa egional Medical Center's equipment at lower than normal rates.
Anyone looking for vulture analogies need gaze no further than the Colusa closing. Their CEO at the time of the April 22nd closure: Wayne Allen, who presided in a similar post during MCDH's bankruptcy era.
(Malcolm Macdonald's website is: MalcolmMacdonaldOutlawFord.com.)