MARBLETON – The Sublette County Hospital District Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to enter into negotiations with Star Valley Health as a managing partner at a special meeting on March 29.
The board opened the meeting with an executive session to discuss confidential survey results from employees at the Sublette County Rural Health Care District (SCRHCD) and Sublette Center. Following the executive session, the board opened the floor to public comments.
Board members proceeded with individual statements outlining where they stood on the decision between Star Valley Health and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) and its parent company, HCA Healthcare.
Trustee Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons proposed a third alternative to start the search process over again and widen the pool to more candidates.
Fitzsimmons raised his concern that the choice was too limited. He added that problems plagued the search process from the beginning, including the withdrawal of St. John’s as a candidate in early March.
The board was operating under pressure to find a management before submitting a loan application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fitzsimmons said. A document supplied to the SCRHCD and Hospital District boards and posted on the hospital district’s website from Lorraine Werner of the USDA indicated that a management partner did not need to be in place before proceeding with the application.
Fitzsimmons made a motion to restart the search process. The motion died due to lack of a second.
Trustee Jamison Ziegler followed with a motion to select Star Valley as a management partner for the Sublette County Hospital District contingent on negotiation and final board approval of an acceptable management contract. Fitzsimmons seconded the motion.
Ziegler, Fitzsimmons and trustee Kenda Tanner voted in the motion’s favor while Board Chair Tonia Hoffman and trustee Wendy Boman voting against the action.
Hoffman and Boman stated that the remaining candidates – Star Valley Health and EIRMC/HCA – were excellent contenders.
Boman leaned toward EIRMC/HCA based on strong support for the organization from SCRHCD and Sublette Center staff members. Boman stressed the vast resources EIRMC/HCA brought to the table to assist the fledgling hospital district with logistics and training.
Hoffman explained that as a health care professional, she favored EIRMC/HCA as the company with the capability to get a critical access hospital and new assisted living facility off the ground and running.
Star Valley Health was a good fit for the community, Tanner said. The company operated a self-sufficient critical access hospital and an assisted living facility with a 5-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Tanner added. Star Valley had expertise in senior care, represented what the Sublette County Hospital District wanted to become and “had rural health care figured out,” Tanner said.
Ziegler discussed the difference in fees between the candidates. Star Valley’s proposal asked for 1 percent of revenue after startup costs while EIRMC/HCA wanted a 3.4-percent cut, he said. Star Valley’s lower fees could make a big difference for a critical access hospital operating on a tight budget, Ziegler added.
Star Valley appeared willing to work with the hospital district on a local level and listen to everyone’s needs, Ziegler added
A large corporation like HCA was too centered on the financial bottom line, Fitzsimmons said, and got rid of EIRMC’s assisted living facility because it was not profitable. Fitzsimmons worried that the hospital district would lose local control if they partnered with HCA.
This is a developing story and more information will be made available soon.