Volume 6, Number 48 - February 22, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
RHCB hires new administrator
The trials and tribulations of transition came to a head during the Wednesday, Feb. 14 meeting of the Sublette County Rural Health District board of directors.
The financial status of the district, clinic operations, the impending loss of a popular nurse, and physician qualifications, contracts and retention were all on the minds of local residents who filled the Sublette County courtroom to speak to the board.
Their voices did not go unheard.
“It finally imploded on us,” board member Walt Bousman said, summing up “the indifference between north and south county, years of problems, and egos of the board.”
“It’s what we inherited,” board member Jud Faler added, though he said he didn’t want to appear to be “passing the buck.”
The board took a couple of steps Feb. 14 to move the district forward and help assuage public outcry.
First, they voted unanimously to hire a new administrator, Robert C. “Kip” Boone, who will start full time April 2. Boone is presently employed as administrator of a medical group in Oakland, Maryland, a position he’s held since 1993.
“Mr. Boone’s job will be to administrate the practice of medicine and oversee clinic operations. He is extremely well-qualified to make sure the business of the health district is compliant with the law,” said Director Randy Johnson, who will remain with the district to pursue options for improving health care access and quality.
In announcing the hiring of Boone, following a short executive session at the start of the meeting, Chairman Bill Budd explained, “The board had a meeting of the minds and understanding; all five members are unified 100 percent in what we need to do. We have no axe to grind, no agenda. We’ve been elected to provide the best health care to all of Sublette County.”
“Sublette County Health Care District is in dire straits, we dug a hell of a hole,” Bousman admitted. “But together we’ll pull this out. This guy (Boone) has some good plans and part of that is sitting down with the board.”
“I’m impressed with Kip’s background. He has good ideas on how to put together a quality health care program for everyone,” Faler said.
Next, the board voted unanimously to offer a basic two-year contract with a one-year renewal option to all active physicians currently practicing in Sublette County.
Board member Dave Racich said they hope to have signed contracts in hand by their next meeting. “We can all work together on this,” he said. “As fast as the county is growing, it’s a step in the right direction.”
The board also agreed to implement a new accounting system and explore the purchase of new payroll software to help improve the district’s financial tracking.
But they still had to answer to the concerns of a standing-room-only crowd of patrons and employees. Speakers wanted benchmarks, and they wanted to know just when the transition would be over; they also wanted to know how much money was in district coffers – something the board could not answer because of the lack of a chief financial officer between the resignation of Jauna McGinnis in September and the hiring of Lorraine Gatzke in .” November.
“No one was doing the job,” Faler said. “Lorraine is working to get it done, but we don’t have a lot of tools.”
“It’s been a huge learning curve since the board took over this business, and I think Lorraine is doing a good job,” board member Bousman said. He admitted, however, that district employees are “as disgruntled as they’ve ever been ... we haven’t been proactive enough.”
Many in the audience on Feb. 14 gave testimony to the care they have received from Dr. Judy Boyle and expressed fear that she was being forced out of Pinedale after selling her clinic to the health district eight months ago.
Even the newest physician to join the district, Dr. David Kappenman, spoke in support of Dr. Boyle. “(She) is a valuable resource to physicians coming on board; she is a great leader and teacher,” Kappenman said, adding to a round of applause, “Hang on to them. It’s difficult to get them to come in, hang on to what you have.”
Marilyn Huffman, a long-time nurse at the Pinedale Clinic, praised everyone present for “working very hard at good manners.” But in reading her letter of resignation to the board, effective March 1, she complained of the board’s treatment of Dr. Boyle, especially by Faler, Budd and Garry Eiden. Huffman called their actions “despicable” and “a great disservice to the county,” and said if Dr. Boyle leaves “it will be because of your actions and voting record.”
Huffman’s pending departure also brought outcry from many. One speaker said, “To lose her now would be an absolute stab to the clinic and our community.”
When asked why the same contract was being offered to all local physicians, regardless of experience or certification, Bousman explained it came down to equity, along with being an incentive for “doctors coming down the road.”
Bousman added, “We get played at both ends ... we hope to sweep that under the rug.”
Bousman also said the same contract was being offered to Dr. David Burnett, who is in private practice in Marbleton.
“Why would Dr. Burnett be offered a contract when he left (the district) twice?” one audience member asked.
While admitting to “bad feelings,” Bousman said the board had to consider the needs of “the many people in south county who doctor with him.” Bousman also said it “would be a good business venture to bring him back ... a benefit to making this a financially stable institution.”
Board certification of physicians then became the topic, with Chairman Budd defending his earlier statements on the subject. Explaining 40 percent of the practicing physicians in Wyoming are not board certified, Budd said, “I see no reason that the board should have a policy that we won’t talk to someone who is not board certified.”
Towards the end of the lengthy meeting, resident Wanda Jones stood up to “give kudos to the board for giving the right answers and trying to be unified.”
But Daniel resident Doug Vickrey admonished the board, saying, “You were elected to serve the constituency, and the constituency spoke loud and clear here tonight. It’s incumbent on you to do what the constituents want, and the constituents want to keep Judy Boyle and also Marilyn Huffman.
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