RHCD addresses public concerns

PINEDALE – Following the Sublette County Rural Health Care District (RHCD) board’s short agenda of new business at last Monday’s special meeting in Pinedale, the small but vocal audience spent about 45 minutes asking various questions to the board in light of recent activity.

The discussion was dominated by where the district is heading with the recent service agreement involving Dougherty Mortgage and Neenan Archistruction, what work those entities will provide, the public involvement with the collaboration committee and more.

Early in the public comment, resident Maxine Leckie asked if the affiliation agreement with St. John’s discussed at the previous meeting that was marked as “null and void” is going away, to which the board stated it indeed is.

Leckie also asked about who would conduct the scope of work with the most recent study, adding that there are four entities, not three. The board stated that project entities consist of Neenan, BKD and Dougherty. The board was unsure who the fourth entity was, stating that entity is subcontracted. They stated to the audience that the project will likely pull in additional subcontractors as progress moves forward.

“This part of it does not include actual design,” vice chair Scott Scherbel said of the service agreement. “They have the ability, but this part does not include actual design.”

The vice chair said this particular study will focus on the size of the project, what is needed most and services suggested. Based on that, they will present a recommendation to the RHCD, following a three-day workshop Sept. 7-9, that will include health-care staff, community members and county commissioners working in small focus groups.

“They’ll study all of that and say, ‘Based on your community, based on all the facts and everything we can find, this is the service lines you should offer; therefore, this is the schematic of the hospital that you should build,’” Scherbel said. “Once we have that, we would then decide on a design. It could be them or somebody else that does the design.”

“It also takes a close look at what goes on in the county, and where does it go and why does it go,” board chair Laura Clark added. “And how can we recapture some of that that is going out. It includes financing. … There is a lot to it.”

Executive director of finance Lorraine Gatzke noted that Michael Curtis of Neenan has called and sent emails to her every day as of late with questions and comments, noting Curtis is engaged and putting forth a big effort to do justice for the scope of work.

Leckie was also concerned with the collaboration committee not being visible to the public, requesting that those meetings be open to the public.

“Part of the problem in the community is people think Jackson is taking over,” Leckie said. “You’ve got to be visible.”

Doug Mason, who serves as legal council for the RHCD, said they could be public meetings, but suggested not having public comment, as it would extend the duration of the meetings and would restrict the work that could be accomplished.

“Even your public meetings don’t have to involve the public,” Mason said. “It’s just a meeting in public where the public is allowed to observe and watch; the public has no right to participate in any of them.”

“And that’s transparency, Doug?” Leckie asked.

“No, that’s Wyoming Public Meeting Law. … It’s in statute,” Mason answered.

“Well that’s transparency; you’re there to hear what’s going on,” Scherbel noted.

“You’re not elected to participate,” Mason said.

“Let them be public meetings then,” board member Wendy Boman said.

“We can publicize them,” Clark said.

The board agreed, stating future collaboration committee meetings would be open to the public.

Later on, Leckie asked for the board to explain each of the entities involved with the service agreement and what they will do in the process.

Scherbel said they, with St. John’s Medical Center, contacted Neenan Archistruction, who combined with Dougherty Mortgage to handle the financing for Neenan projects. In terms of BKD, it is a financial consultant group that works with St. John’s. BKD first came into the discussion last fall when St. John’s had BKD do an analysis of how St. John’s could help Sublette County. From that, BKD recommended the RHCD get a critical access hospital.

BKD is not tied to Dougherty and Neenan; however, since they’ve already done work, they were brought in to have their work incorporated into the mix, Scherbel said.

“That’s very helpful, Scott,” Leckie said. “I had no idea who BKD was and what they did.”

“This actual contract that’s signed is with Dougherty only,” Scherbel noted. “They are the prime contractor. Everyone else associated is working with them.”

The board was then asked about where the $102 million in mill levy money has been spent during the past 15 years, since 2002, at the RHCD. Scherbel did some quick math to explain where they money has gone.

He said the current total budget is around $8 million.

“If you take $102 million, divided it by 15… that is less than $7 million per year,” he said. “Our budget right now is roughly $7 million after we made significant cuts with our costs as well as having significant loss in income. It was spent providing the health-care services we’re still providing.”

After going through a number of topics and receiving the answers they sought, the small group of attendees thanked the board for providing the insight before the meeting came to a close.

The next regular monthly RHCD meeting will be on Wednesday, July 19, in the Commissioners' Room in Pinedale at 6 p.m.

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