Cimarron Memorial Board hears from county citizens

Thursday's meeting is adjourned to Aug. 1

by C.F. David

The Board of Control of Cimarron Memorial Hospital gaveled their meeting to order on Thursday, July 27. The meeting much of which was about the non-renewal of Dr. Gary Mathews contract, would later be adjourned and reconvened on Aug. 1.

With the absence of Chairman Ralph Warren on Thursday, Vice-chair Frank Lynch took control of the meeting.

CEO Patsy Shields told the crowd of thirty or more that the hospital's leased CAT Scan should be on site by Aug. 9. The hospital is awaiting the change-over from Xcel Energy to Tri-County electric so a pole can be set.

Shields apologized to the board and citizens for having missed some Medicare deadlines due to the death of her father; she added that the problem had been rectified.

Shields told the board that work is being done to update the policies and procedures added so that the hospital can stay compliant.

Shields told the board that the hospital's revenues were down from last year since the hospital's census was down.

The Accounts Receivable are also down from $1.2 million to $821 thousand.

Shields explained that self-pay [charges not covered by insurance or Medicare] are 70 percent of the accounts receivable. Shields explained that judgments and/or collections are the only answer in most of these cases.

Nursing Director Connie Belford told the board that in June of 2005, there were 106 days listed for patients in the hospital; in comparison for June of 2006 that was down to 84. The visits for the ER in June of 2005 were 99; June 2006, 67.

Belford told the board that she, along with Cimarron County commissioner Bill Percifield had been traveling to Enid to attend conferences on Pandemic Flu.

She also told the board that political gears were in motion to force all rural hospitals to send emergency patients to Oklahoma City . Belford said that politicians from downstate needed to realize that to transport a burn patient from Cimarron county was 320 miles by air, compared to 220 to Lubbock , Texas .

Amarillo , Texas at 120 miles is much closer, and Wichita , Kan. is also closer than Oklahoma City .

“ Oklahoma City doesn't always take our patients by air ambulance. But Wichita always takes them.”

Marlene Clifton, Cimarron Memorial's X-Ray tech., took the floor and told the board that in the case of a power outage that her lab is left in the dark.

“I can take pictures, but I can't process them,” she said.

The board became alarmed that during the June 22 windstorm that left the Panhandle in the dark, there was no way for the hospital to communicate outside its walls except by phone.

Cimarron County Sheriff Keith Borth told the board that the commissioners had begun looking at solutions.

Board Member Dwilene Holbert told the board that she and CFO Kevin Conner had met with the County Commissioners to request a vote of the people for an extension of the two percent sales tax to support the hospital.

As Lynch opened the floor for discussion he asked that no one be attacked by name and that each speaker control their emotions.

Doctor Wheeler opened the feedback on the non-renewal of Dr. Gary Mathews' contract with Cimarron Memorial.

“I support Dr. Mathews. I think he does good medicine,” Wheeler said.

“He lives here and has been a member of our community for a long time,” Wheeler added.

Stacy Spradling, a Cimarron Memorial Nurse stood and complained that Dr. Mathews wasn't told personally about the decision, but was notified by letter.

“He and Dr. Wheeler are paid poorly,” Spradling said.

Spradling added that in her opinion the situation hadn't been thought out clearly, and that if it had why was Mathews contract ending on Aug. 17, as Dr. Wheeler was leaving for two weeks?

Another hospital employee, Chad Hughes told the board that his 76-year-old father hated change.

Teresa Stafford looked at the board, “We are getting rid of him? What are we thinking?”

Marlene Clifton stood in support of Shields, the board, and Dr. Mathews.

“I don't think anyone has said he is a bad physician.”

But I do not agree with paid [salaried] physicans,” she said.

Clifton expressed that having salaried physicans led to doctors that were underachieving.

“When they are paid by the hospital they [the hospital] don't get 100 percent,” Clifton said.

She looked out at the crowd, “You have to look at it in a different way. We're not saying he's gone. He's a kind man, we love him,” she said.

Jerry Garrison stood, “We've counted 21 physicans and PAs that have come through here. If it weren't for Dr. Mathews, I wouldn't be here.”

Bob James took the podium, “I'd like to thank the members of the board. You've got the hardest job in the world. I don't know a time when this hospital wasn't in trouble,” he added.

“But that [losing Dr. Mathews] is cutting the tail off the dog.”

“We love this hospital. He want's to stay; let's don't do this,” James said.

Bob Gayler came forward, he looked at Lynch.

“You told me that it was all about money Frank. He don't put enough people in the hospital.”

Gayler then told the board to explain to the voters that the two percent sales tax was the best they could have since much of it is paid by tourists and those passing through the county.

Gayler asked if Dr. Harold Nims had been here and seen the county; the board responded yes. He then asked if his wife had come, they said, “No.”

The answer was greeted by a chorus of “uh ohs” from the crowd.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Gayler said as he sat.

Vicki Roberts stood, “Dr. Wheeler is an institution. We need another one.”

Joyce Hunt, a former hospital board member looked at the board.

“We had a doctor that brought in a lot of money. But we got sued a lot,” she said.

“It's true what they say, ‘If the wife is happy, everyone's happy' ”Hunt added.

Pat Weldon said, “If it's strictly money, what's it gonna cost when we use Docs Who Care?”

For God's sake, let's don't lose him, he's a local boy and a good doctor.”

Donna Cain told the board that doctors, like any other employee should know up front what is expected of them.

“Let them know if you aren't satisfied.”

Board member Dwilene Holbert stood and told those in assembly that she wanted the entire staff in clinic, nursing home and hospital to work together.

“I want the doctors to work with the CEO.”

“I want the employees to work with the CEO,” she said.

“I want them to listen to their department heads.”

Holbert said she wanted the policies of the Emergency Room to be better addressed by the doctors.

“Has it been status quo in the past that the doctors didn't always come in?” Holbert asked.

Marlene Clifton stood again, “The hardest thing is to be an employee out here [The hospital].”

Clifton reminded everyone in the room that she and others had worked with late paydays.

“The medical field isn't about caring for people anymore. It's a business,” Clifton said. “It's lost what it's supposed to be.”

“We've got to get our personal feelings out of the way.”

“We are fighting everyday to stay here,” Clifton reminded them.

The board went into special session, and later adjourned.

Aug. 1

The August 1 meeting began with Chairman Ralph Warren opening the floor to further comment.

One man stated that in his opinion they now had the best administrator since he'd been attending meetings.

Another woman told the board that she was concerned about the patients if Dr. Mathews left.

Warren then addressed the small crowd, “We feel like Dr. Wheeler is a good doctor, but he's under pressure.”

“We'd like to keep three doctors,” Warren added. “That was our original intent.”

Shields and Clifton then told the board that the CAT Scan would arrive on Tuesday, Aug. 8, and that Tri-County would install it's pole on Aug. 2.

Clifton told the board that there will be intensive training before the machine is turned over to the hospital.

She continued that it would take about 20 scans per month to keep the lease paid.

Stacy Spradling asked what the time frame would be for the scans to be read. She explained that in the eventuality of a stroke the doctors had a window of three hours in which to administer the correct enzyme to dissolve the clot and possibly reverse any damage it had done.

Holbert reiterated that cooperation was needed from the entire staff.

“I want the doctors working together, the nurses, the business office.”

Holbert explained her vision of the future of Cimarron Memorial, where doctors worked some days in Keyes, and Kenton.

“We used to have traveling doctors.”

“I don't care if they just go out and visit with these people,” she said.

“ Boise City isn't the community of Cimarron County ,” Holbert said.

The board again went into special session.

After emerging, Chairman Ralph Warren and Board member Don Stark agreed to meet with Dr. Mathews to negotiate a new contract.

The meeting was again adjourned and the board will meet again at 5 p.m. on Aug. 2 to go back into special session.

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