From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 37 - December 12, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Medical director contract deemed urgent

by Cat Urbigkit

The Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board met Monday night in Pinedale to address a variety of items.

Dr. David Burnett of the Marbleton/Big Piney Clinic requested an executive session with the board to discuss amending his contract to address his service as medical director for the Big Piney Emergency Medical Services, but board chairman Walt Bousman said he spoke with board counsel who advised that the board couldn't legally hold such a session.

Burnett disagreed and stated his desire not to discuss certain issues in public session, but said he would do so if forced.

"Our attorney has advised us that we should not do that anymore," Bousman said of the requested executive session.

Burnett said that there really are some matters he would prefer to address in the closed session. Bousman responded by reading aloud the portion of the state law stating under what conditions executive sessions could be held.

After listening to the details of the statute, board member Bill Barney said he felt the executive session could be held under the provision allowing such sessions "to consider accepting or tendering offers concerning wages, salaries, benefits and terms of employment during all negotiations."

Board member Garry Eiden Sr. said he agreed with Barney that the issue should be covered under that provision. Barney suggested Bousman re-approach attorney Ed Wood about the issue.

Burnett said, "Let me remind the board there was a time pressure mentioned five weeks ago," when the issue was first discussed. "I labeled that situation as urgent at the time. It's past urgent now."

The problem is that Burnett's malpractice insurance increased because he went from being medical director of a volunteer service to being medical director of a paid service when the board decided to turn the voluntary services into paid services.

Not only did the premium increase, Burnett said, but there was also a lapse in coverage because of the issue. His insurance company is also requiring that it be supplied with a copy of Burnett's contract with the board to serve as medical director, but no such contract currently exists.

"I don't want to deliver the board an ultimatum ... but I cannot continue as medical director of this ambulance service without coverage," Burnett said.

The board agreed to hasten its contact with Wood in resolving the entire issue.

The board once again discussed the Marbleton clinic's proposed purchase of a computer system for $15,000. Bousman said, "I'm real leery of getting into a computer system at this time," and suggested the board consult with an outside party on what would be appropriate. Bousman said he was leaning toward voting against the proposal.

"I still think there's a lot of questions," board member Mary Lynn Worl said.

Board member Jerry Jensen said he was interested in implementing a system for both clinics, not just one.

Burnett pointed out the previous board had already approved the $15,000 request for a computer system and that number was in the approved budget.

"I don't need approval from the board because it's already approved," Burnett told the board Monday evening, stating the board's debate over the issue had gone on too long and become too complicated.

Burnett said Worl had submitted a 17-question paper regarding the computer system that was answered by his office staff.

"Just let me buy the computer and I'll fill in the rest," Burnett said.

"I've got to act before the end of the year" to take advantage of tax provisions, Burnett noted. "I need the computer now so we can go in and get started."

The board discussed the issue further, and eventually cast a unanimous vote in favor of Burnett's request for the $15,000 for the computer system.

The board spoke briefly about physician recruitment. Pinedale Medical Clinic contracting physician Dr. Judy Boyle was not in attendance. Burnett reminded the board that he had recruited two physicians in just over two years, at no cost to the board other than the payment of moving expenses. He noted that the contracting physician is paid $240,000 a year to provide medical services, and the hiring of an additional doctor comes from that contracted amount. He cautioned that if the board were considering paying for a second physician in Pinedale, the board would need to consider a similar program in the Big Piney area.

While the board discussed possible financial incentives and packages that could be offered, and pondered whether such offerings should be retroactive, Burnett suggested, "It's not so much money, it's finding someone who fits the bill."

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