Saturday, August 11, 2012

A New Face for Hospital District?

A new face for hospital district?
The Mark Twain Health Care District’s strategic plan, released last week, focuses on rebuilding the public trust in the health care system in Calaveras County.

Much of the two-page plan addressed concerns raised by a scathing (Calaveras County) grand jury report, which scrutinized the district in June and concluded, “The public has lost confidence in the health care provided in the county.” Read the plan by clicking the .pdf on the left.
“It’s about having people trust that the district, the corporation and Dignity Health are indeed looking out for their best interest, and they do have a voice and way to express their concerns,” said Daymon Doss, interim chief executive officer for the district.

The district receives about $800,000 in taxpayers’ money annually and is responsible for ensuring quality health-care services to the community, communicating with physicians and maintaining the hospital’s image in the community, according to Lin Reed, district board president. It also communicates with a private corporate board, which sets policy for running the Dignity Health Corp.-operated hospital under a lease agreement with the public hospital district.

Starting in early 2011, dissension between hospital administration, the corporate board and doctors led to a mass exodus of physicians over roughly a 12-month period.

This loss of physicians was of particular concern to the district during its two-day strategic planning summit.
“Clearly one of the big issues coming up in this community is the loss of primary care physicians,” Doss said. “When you don’t have primary care physicians, you have difficulty retaining specialty physicians.”

A primary goal is to work with the corporate board and Dignity Health to recruit and retain primary physicians in order to build a solid base of quality care on which the community can rely, the plan states.

One of Doss’ tasks as interim CEO is to examine the lease, which expires in 2019, between the district and the corporation.

“The lease was done many years ago and there are nuances in that lease that people have forgotten and need to be reviewed,” Doss said. “One thing that needs to be reviewed is to really understand what the lease says, what the terms are and discussion about renewal.”

Doss hopes to remind the public the district owns the grounds and buildings on which the hospital sits, and leases them to the corporation which operates the hospital.

“I think there is a high level of interest in working with the corporation and with Dignity to look at a lease renewal,” Doss said. “I have not heard anyone say otherwise.”

That being said, the district outlined a plan to get the public involved in the process and focus on transparency.

“What we’re looking to do is put together a very public process, so everybody in the community knows exactly what we’re doing in regard to having conversations with the corporation and Dignity Health regarding the lease and renewal process.”

Another high priority goal is continuing the fundraising effort to build the new medical clinic in Angels Camp. In conjunction with that effort, the district plans to look at the region as a whole and identify other needs, such as additional clinics or much-needed upgrades to existing facilities.
“What role should Mark Twain Health Care District have in working with Department of Health Services and the hospital?” Doss asked. “When we are doing our granting of some of the tax dollars, I think the health care district receives about $800,000 in tax dollars, we want to make sure that money goes to the right place.”

Under the category of establishing the public identity of the MTHCD, Doss confirmed the district was responding to several suggestions made by the grand jury report.

“Because of the unique nature between the relationship with the district, corporation and Dignity Health, there has been a loss of clarity in the identity of the MTHCD and why it exists,” Doss said. “It’s been here since 1946. I don’t think there is a clear understanding within the community about why it is still around.”

In order to clear up whatever misconceptions the community may have, the district has committed itself to striving toward transparency.

To this end, it will publish an annual report detailing its activities throughout the year, which will be presented to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, the strategic plan states. A website will be up and running by the end of this month that will include general facts, contact information and past meeting minutes, agendas and resolutions. A new office dedicated to the district has already opened, and it will soon have its own telephone line.

Doss said the district hoped to attain a, “much higher level of transparency, as clearly identified by the grand jury.”

“People can call us directly and contact us via the website,” Doss said. “Really, we want to help people understand who we are, what we do and what our role is. Accountability is really the issue here. The grand jury report was very clear about the areas of confusion. Our goal is to address that confusion and bring clarity.”

In addition to making changes per the grand jury’s recommendations, the district plans to continue to discuss the promotion of health fairs, community education presentations, medical clinic development, mobile health services, transportation/vouchers for medical access and safety net programs and services.

“I think the big difference, if you look at this planning project for this year versus the previous two years, this is really about how we change the image of the district,” Doss said. “How do we help the people of Calaveras County understand what the district is and what the relationship is between the district and corporation that governs the hospital, how they work together, and where are they going and what plans they have for the future.”

Two vacancies on the district’s five-member board are up in June’s primary election. George Fry of Copperopolis and Dr. Randy Smart have filed to have their names placed on the ballot. Jerry Lucas of Murphys said Monday that he intends to file as well before Friday’s filing deadline.

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