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Coast Hospital: The New Administration

Mendocino Coast District Hospital held a special meeting of their Board of Directors three days before Christmas. With five board members, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bob Edwards, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Wade Sturgeon, and MCDH legal counsel John Ruprecht all in attendance, the public audience was outnumbered.

First order of business, fill out the officers to serve along with new MCDH Board President Steve Lund. The printed agenda came with suggestions for each position, presumably adhering to the wishes of Lund. That list was voted in; retired nurse Kitty Bruning as Board Vice President, Dr. Luke Campos as Treasurer, and retired neurologist Peter Glusker as Board Secretary. Only Bruning's election failed to be unanimous, with Glusker abstaining.

Next, the hospital board's standing committees were selected. Again, pretty much as written out in the agenda packet. Dr. Campos will chair the Finance Committee, with Glusker serving as Vice Chair. Committee members will include former MCDH Board President Tom Birdsell, who was voted off the board in the November election. Joining him as “civilian” members of the Finance Committee: Kaye Handley (who lost a bid for a board seat in that same election), Bill Scott, John Allison, and Kirk O'Day, all of whom have served in the same capacity in the past.

The hospital's Planning Committee will be chaired by new board member Dr. Kevin Miller. Kitty Bruning will serve as Vice Chair, a post she held throughout 2016. The CEO, Edwards, serves as a member of the Finance Committee. The remaining members are all returnees, Dr. Jack Bellah, Mike Dell' Ara, Jim Katzel, and Kirk O'Day, who also doubles as a liaison to the Finance Committee.

These are the folk who will provide much of the make or break decisions regarding Mendocino Coast District Hospital. The only caveat therin concerns public input, and judging by the usual under attended board and committee meetings the thousands of voting residents of this hospital district are content with this procedure.

MCDH will employ two Ad Hoc committees in 2017. One will look into the viability of converting MCDH to a hospital fee model. At the December 22nd meeting both CFO Sturgeon and counsel Ruprecht noted that going through such a restructuring could take as long as a year and a half and cost a million dollars to complete the process. The restructuring to a hospital fee system would require district wide ballot approval by the voters. Sturgeon also pointed out that the rewards of such a change could possibly be two million or more dollars to the hospital each year. The unknowns regarding this issue have lead to the formation of a Restructure Ad Hoc Committee, headed by Lund, with members to include Edwards, Sturgeon, Birdsell, Campos, Handley, O'Day, Allison, and Bill Scott.

The one issue that has roused a good deal of public interest is that of the economic viability of the Obstetrics (OB) Department. An ad hoc committee on that subject has been more or less promised since a July public forum on the subject. Lund seems intent on following through on this matter. He appointed Dr. Miller to Chair the OB Ad Hoc Committee. The membership will be made up of no more than ten to twelve individuals including Mendocino Coast Clinic Executive Director Lucresha Renteria, Ms. Bruning, Mr. Sturgeon, John Allison, Dr. Bellah, as well as Tanya Smart and Carol White, both of whom have attempted to push the MCDH Board toward some sort of progress on this subject for the better part of a year.

Lund wrote his direction for this committee into the agenda. “This ad hoc committee is an advisory body and will share information and recommendations for further review (if necessary) with the Planning Committee for consideration.

“[It will] identify and examine all pertinent factors related to the challenges and opportunities associated with providing hospital based obstetrical services to the Mendocino Coast Health Care District (i.e. costs, staffing, facilities, etc.).”

He also provided guidance on what particular steps to follow: 1. Elect a Chairperson 2. Develop questions and data needed to conduct a thorough review. 3. Arrange interviews and presentations needed to acquire sufficient factual information. 4. Prepare recommendations to present to the Planning Committee.

A report to that committee has a proposed deadline of March 31, 2017, according to Lund's agenda. The Restructure Committee is expected to file its recommendations by the end of March as well.

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