Merger with Sublette Center still in the works


Discuss other issues at public meeting

A proposed merger between

the Sublette County Rural Health Care

District and the Sublette Center is moving forward,

District Administrative Director David

Doorn stated at a public question and answer

session at Rendezvous Pointe on June 4.

Doorn said that rumors circulating about

the merger falling through were not true.

The merger still has “three contingencies”

that representatives of the each board need to

work out. Otherwise, pending a vote from the

health care district board, plans are moving

forward to join the two entities together and

2 many clerks

spoil the budget

Commissioners debate merits of budget requests

By Holly Dabb, [email protected]

make ends meet or $480,000 for the year.

They also asked for more funds to remodel

sections of the facility. Commissioners verbally

agreed to the extra $5,000 but refused

to consider any improvement to the facility

pending the outcome of a proposed merger

with Sublette County Rural Health Care

District.

Both senior centers in Marbleton and

Pinedale kept requests at last year’s levels,

but both said they could use more. Commissioners

gave a verbal consensus to add

$2,000 for each senior center.

With many agencies requesting more

money this year, Rawhouser said that while

each request had merit, at the end it would

come down to whether or not the budget

was “busted.”

Vickrey compared the budget to a bucket

and each added request as filling the bucket.

“At some point we run out of bucket,”

Vickrey said.

At that point, commissioners looked at

proposed upgrades to the Pinedale trash

transfer station. The $1.2 million upgrade

included a concrete pad and a building.

Commissioners agreed the concrete pad

could be built this year and $600,000 for

the building could be come next year.

“That just shot a hole and emptied your

bucket,” Noble said. He told Vickrey, who

Merger with Sublette Center still in the works

By Robert Galbreath, [email protected]

Discuss other issues

at public meeting

discuss possible options for new facilities that

“will benefit both,” Doorn said.

Resident Kelly Ravner voiced concern that

there was no public input in the merger, and

that an earlier attempt to join the two entities

failed. Ravner referred to mediations between

the district and Sublette Center that took place

under facilitator Mark Cross in 2017-2018.

Cross, hired by the county commissioners

in December 2016, advised against a merger

due to the high overhead costs to operate the

Sublette Center at a workshop on Jan. 8, 2018.

Doorn stated at the June 4 meeting that he

disagreed with Cross’ assessment. A merger

will “make the whole county stronger,” he

said. Once the Sublette Center becomes a

government entity, the amount of Medicaid

reimbursement available to fund a project like

a critical access hospital and assisted living

facility will increase, Doorn explained.

Doorn reported that he met with architects

to go over “lots of options” for a critical access

hospital using the Pinedale Medical

Clinic site. The plans require half the square

footage in new construction that the Bloomfield

plan called for.

Negotiations with the city and school district

about a possible land swap to relocate the

ballpark are underway, Doorn added.

“The county and towns are all working

well together,” Board Chairman Wendy

Boman said.

Public feedback on building a critical access

hospital at the Pinedale Clinic site was

generally positive, Doorn reported. He cited

a meeting he attended with Lorraine Werner

of the USDA about the CAH application process.

Doorn said Werner told him that out of

the 350 emails she received, 90 percent supported

a hospital, but 70 percent opposed

building a new facility at the Bloomfield site.

Part of applying for a USDA loan requires

widespread community support along with

financial feasibility, Doorn explained.

“We are taking steps to change what happened

in the past and repair relationships with

the Sublette Center, County Commissioners

and the mayors,” he said.

Board member Mike Pompy emphasized

at the meeting that all of the conversations and

negotiations about a future critical access hospital

and its location, or an assisted living facility,

were not official board decisions yet but

only preliminary discussions. The health

care district board must vote on all steps

in the process at a public meeting before

anything can go into affect.

Members of the public voiced concern

that they felt a lot of negotiations and

meetings were going on without public

input. Boman stressed that the district is

bound by regulations on public meetings.

She added that they planned to have more

public sessions to listen to concerns, and

invited members of the public to contact

board members directly and attend the

open meetings. Doorn stressed the importance

of the district creating a “clear

vision” on what are now only preliminary

plans before including public input

in board committee meetings.

Keeping quality practitioners

Rep. Albert Sommers, HD-20, asked

Doorn what he was doing to “improve

employee morale” and retain quality

practitioners. Sommers expressed

concern that finding CNAs to staff any

proposed assisted living facility will be

a challenge, and asked if the board had

carried out a “workforce need survey.”

Doorn responded that finding practitioners

is difficult. However, he stated

that the merger will help CNAs since

they would receive county benefits. He

added that he plans to “make sure all (employees)

feel secure” and to be “fair and

open” in employee discussions. Doorn

said that the merger does not mean any

layoffs are pending at this time.

Resident Marilyn Huffman stated that

her daughter worked as a nurse at the

Pinedale Clinic.

“You need to take care of your (employees),”

she said. Nurses and other staff

had not received raises for years other

than the recent cost of living adjustment

passed by the previous board, she added.

Boman responded that the cost of living

adjustment was twice the amount

originally proposed, and stated that district

employees received a 5-percent

bonus in May 2017.

Huffman responded that the cost of

living adjustment was not enough, and

only amounted to about 25 cents for

nurses like her daughter.

Fiscal responsibility

In response to questions about the district’s

finances, Doorn said his goal is to

“be responsible with taxpayer money.”

He discussed how the district was consolidating

administrative positions, “tightening

the ship” to save money and “turn the

funds back over to patient care.”

Some of the savings might be used to

help upgrade some of the district’s ageing

radiology equipment, hire another

provider and prepare the application for

a critical access hospital.

“Our cash flow is even right now,”

Doorn said.

“We are spending as much as we are

bringing in now,” said Pompy. “We’re

working on being more responsible with

spending.

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