RHCD tables recommendation on management partner

PINEDALE – The Sublette County Rural Health Care District (SCRHCD) Board of Trustees tabled a request to recommend a management partner to the Sublette County Hospital District at its March 24 meeting. Diverse opinions on the Hospital District’s impending management decision emerged among individual SCRHCD board members during discussion.

Board Chairman Mike Pompy stated that the board was unable to speak as a cohesive unit. A motion to table a management recommendation by the SCRHCD passed, 4-1, with Vice Chair Sam Bixler voting against the motion.

During the discussion, Pompy stated that in his view, the SCRHCD would have no interaction with a future management partner and wanted to defer the decision to the Hospital District. Board Secretary Marti Seipp agreed with Pompy’s assessment.

Trustee Kari DeWitt said she believed the Hospital District had two excellent choices between Star Valley Health and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare. DeWitt echoed Pompy’s statement that the decision was up to the Hospital District. She encouraged the Hospital District to strongly consider surveys and opinions from SCRHCD employees.

Treasurer Lynn Bernard disagreed, stating that the vetting process to select a management partners was not sufficiently diligent. He believed that the Hospital District needed to advertise nationally and widen the pool beyond the original three regional candidates and warned the board that the two remaining contenders are not what either signed up for.

Bixler put his support behind Star Valley Health. Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and HCA offered advantages, including a wide range of national expertise and buying power that comes with a multinational corporation, he said.

Star Valley was small enough to be able to react to local concerns, Bixler added. He worried that if problems arose in Sublette County with HCA as the management partner, local managers would be forced to work with management trainees over the phone in a faraway location like Chicago.

The Sublette County Hospital District scheduled a meeting on Monday, March 29, at the Southwest Sublette County Pioneers Senior Center in Marbleton where the board intended to make a final decision on management partners. The meeting was scheduled to begin with an executive session to discuss confidential employee surveys and concerns at 5 p.m. A meeting open to public discussion and comments will follow the executive session at approximately 7 p.m.

At the SCRHCD meeting, a debate arose between members of the Hospital District board members and SCRHCD staff over whether or not a management partner needed to be in place before submitting a loan application to the USDA.

Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons, trustee for the Hospital District, stated that during a conversation with Lorraine Werner of the USDA, he was told that a management partner did not need to be in place before submitting the application and therefore the boards did not need to rush in selecting a management partner.

Wendy Boman, a Hospital District trustee, recalled a recent conversation with Werner where she was told that before ground was broken on the new project, the USDA required a signed contract including the amount the hospital district was paying its management partner.

Dave Doorn, administrative director at the SCRHCD, said that the USDA application was still waiting on the Hospital District to approve formal bylaws and complete an agreement with the Highland Irrigation District on the proposed construction site. The Hospital District board’s new lawyer was looking through the bylaws before presenting an amended version for the Hospital District board’s approval, he added.

Pompy and the SCRHCD board members agreed to contact Werner as early as possible and request a written statement outlining the exact requirements and steps needed to complete the application.

Pompy stated that Werner’s reply will be publically posted on the SCRHCD website and sent to local media.