Sublette citizens discuss county health care
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
February 20, 2007
A group of citizens met at the Sublette County library in Pinedale on Monday night to discuss concerns they have about health care in Sublette County.
The gathering was called by several people who have issues with health care in the community that they feel are not being adequately addressed, said Cindy Van, who served to run the meeting. Several of the organizers expressed frustration that the Sublette County Rural Health Care Board is not being responsive to their concerns, so they decided to hold this meeting to see if others also had issues and if something could be done to bring their concerns before the Board. “We’re not here to solve anything here today, “ Van told the group, “We’re here to get the issues down on paper and get them to the Board.”
After considerable discussion, the group came up with four main points they would like to present to the Rural Health Care Board for their consideration, which they plan to present to the board at their February 28th meeting in Marbleton. The concerns were:
1. Keep the medical staff we currently have on board and in particular securing contracts for Dr. Boyle at the Pinedale Clinic and Dr. LaSuer at the Marbleton Clinic. The RHCB has not yet signed contracts with these doctors, and several clinic support staff have resigned for various reasons. The citizens expressed concerns that they didn’t want to lose any more of the medical staff we have at the clinics.
2. Hire more nurses and get more help for the ever-increasing workloads for the medical clinic staffs.
3. Encourage an attitude change by the RHCB, “They are our servants, not we are their subjects.”
4. Insist on accurate monthly financial statements from the Board. Apparently the RHCB has not yet provided a financial statement that shows what is being spent with taxpayer dollars.
The group present decided to call themselves the "Health Care Coalition", although they are actually still a very informal coalition of concerned citizens and not really a structured group. Their purpose is to semi-formally organize a health care coalition with the goal of voicing concerns of the public about health care in the county with the Rural Health Care Board.
They decided they will formally ask to be placed on the agenda for the monthly meetings of the RHCB rather than rely on making comments only during the public comment time slot on the agenda. They felt they wanted to be on the agenda to make sure they had a designated time slot to be able to speak to the Board so their concerns would be heard and addressed as a line item on the Board’s agenda.
The group plans to hold another meeting on Monday, March 19, 7 PM, at a place to be determined.
Other points that came out during the meeting:
- RHCB Director Randy Johnson’s contract has been extended for another 6 months.
- Pinedale Medical Clinic nurse Marilyn Huffman gave the RHCB her resignation at their last meeting, in part as a statement about her dissatisfaction with the way the Board is treating the personnel at the Pinedale Clinic.
- A number of people spoke out strongly in support of Dr. Boyle, and gave praise for her hard work, long hours and dedication to her patients.
- One of the medical people present said she felt there needs to be at least three physicians on staff every day in order to handle the current patient workload at the Pinedale Clinic.
- Pinedale Clinic front desk receptionist, Amanda Key, pointed out that the Pinedale Clinic sees between 10,000 to 11,000 patients a year now. 80 percent of the Pinedale Clinc's caseload is walk-in patients who need emergency or urgent care. The Pinedale Clinic sees an average of 30 patients a day on their busiest days (Monday through Wednesday). Of that, only 10 are scheduled appointments and the other 20 are walk-ins who need immediate care for one reason or another. At times they can get as many as 48 people a day as walk-in patients who require immediate care.
- The Big Piney Medical Clinic sees ¼ to 1/3 the patient case workload that the Pinedale Clinic has.
- A couple of people commented that it is hard for the audience to hear the discussions that go on in the RHCB meetings and suggested it would help if the board members had microphones or made an effort to make sure that all the conversations are done in a way that the audience can hear what is being said.
- One audience member commented they felt the current medical system isn’t broken. “We don’t need to rebuild it. We just need to get Dr. Boyle some more help.”
- The RHCB has hired a new Clinic Director, Kip Boone, who will be here in early April. Several people commented this was a good step forward, as long as the RHCB members don't micromanage him and let him have the freedom and latitude to do the job he was hired to do.
- Others in the audience said they felt certain board members on the RHCB were verbally abusive to the point of being rude and not allowing the public to have the opportunity to speak at the meetings.
- Members of the audience praised the RHCB for hiring a new clinic administrator and two new doctors, who will be on board soon. Audience members acknowledged that more time was needed to give these new people a chance to get on staff and get some work done on their jobs, which might help with some of the concerns currently being expressed.
- Several people said they would like to see the RHCB do a better job of making the public aware of the new personnel coming on at the clinics and suggested the Board hold an open house to allow the public to meet them.
- Several people expressed sentiments that they felt the RHCB is not as responsive as they feel they should be to public input at the regular meetings. They also felt the regular meeting dates should be better advertised in the local papers. Some people also commented they would like to see the Board do more publicity and write press releases letting the public know who the new doctors are being hired, as well as on other health care topics that would be of interest to the general public.
- Another suggestion was to do press releases that credit the successes that happen in the county and accomplishments by members of the medical community that deserve kudos and recognition. One example cited was the certification of the lab under Michelle Overgaag, which they felt the general public is probably unaware of what a big accomplishment this was. It was also mentioned that the people in this audience, and the public in general can help with this by writing letters to the editor to the local papers giving kudos on these kinds of things each person feels is worthy of recognition.
- There was some discussion about encouraging those in the public who are concerned about these same issues to come to the RHCB meetings and get involved in the process to show support for the medical staff and to encourage positive changes for health care in the community.
- Several audience members gave credit to former RHCB members for taking steps to hire new doctors and put a system in place to work to improve the current health care situation. The new board is still somewhat new in working together and taking steps to continue in the direction of trying to improve things for county health care.
- There was praise for Randy Johnson and the work he is doing for the RHCB as Director of the District. Another person commented on Johnson’s tremendous skills as a grant writer.
- There was some discussion about requesting an interim audit of the books of the RHCB to try and obtain an accurate picture of the financial status, which seems to be a big question mark as to how much money they have and what it is being spent on.
- There was discussion about re-investigating the feasibility of getting a hospital in the county and the benefits of an actual hospital and a 24-hour emergency clinic.
- There was a suggestion to have the RHCB do a survey of county residents to find out how many people go elsewhere for their primary health care, and why, and find ways to improve things to keep that medical care in county if possible.
- Another comment was to have the RHCB encourage the continuing medical education of the health care staff and providers in the county so they keep up with their education. Some pointed out they would like to see that as a requirement in contracts with medical personnel.
- It was pointed out that the long-range planning committee for the schools expect 400 more students next year in Pinedale, and concerns that the current medical facilities and staff are not prepared for the pediatric needs this will bring.
- It was expressed that Sublette County can be a model for health care in the country. We have an incredible opportunity to bring our clinics together and work together to have quality health care for patients in our county. We have the money to make it happen.
Editor's Comment: People serving on the Rural Health Care Board are elected by the citizens of the county for 4-year terms. Current RHCB members are: Walt Bousman, Bill Budd, Gary Eiden Sr, Jud Faler and Dave Racich. None of the board members attended this meeting, nor were any of the doctors in the county present to give their input.
Dates for future Rural County Health Care Board meetings for the rest of the year are posted on our Pinedale Online year-round calendar of events: Pinedale Area Calendar. Click on the link below to hear the report about this meeting that was aired on KPIN 101.1 FM Pinedale News Radio (mp3 file requires a program that can open audio files.) Also see Thursday's Pinedale Roundup newspaper, February 22 edition, for their report on this meeting, www.pinedaleroundup.com.