SLAYTON - Murray County Medical Center Board members held a special strategy planning meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the future of the county-owned hospital.
Board chairman Bob Moline welcomed the crowd assembled at the courthouse and informed it that there will be no motions from the board today. The big draw for the crowd was the discussion of possibly changing management companies, from Sanford to Avera.
John Osse, MCMC interim CEO, brought forward and read a letter signed by current medical staff in support of staying with Sanford.
"This letter was handed to me this morning," Osse said.
"Just looking at these two health organizations (Sanford and Avera) and keeping all else out of the equation, there is no debate," the letter began. "Avera simply cannot offer what Sanford can and does."
The letter cited educational offerings, access to an academic teaching hospital, an abundance of clinical trials and the "financial stability of the nation's largest non-profit rural healthcare provider."
"I can't imagine we would even think of severing this relationship with the best and brightest clinicians, educators and teachers who are practicing cutting-edge, evidence-based medicine," the letter said.
Concerns were also raised in the letter over patients being sent elsewhere, primarily Avera Marshall, for procedures and tests that are currently done in Slayton.
"More than likely, Avera would simply choose to not even replace any of our outreach physicians, as Marshall is only 30 miles away. The financial cost of losing our outreach physicians will close our doors,"?the letter said.
The writers said that they are "again disappointed in our hospital board" and add criticism of the board's lack of engagement.
"Not only do you not know what Sanford does for us, but individually, not a single one of you bothered to do your homework... to find out what Sanford does for us. Did you talk to any of us? Employees of the hospital? The answer is 'no.' Instead you rush in and hold a public meeting with the community and guess what, they too don't know what Sanford does for MCMC," said the letter.
"The letter is signed by the active members of the medical staff," Osse said.
When Osse finished reading the letter, the board asked him what he thought of the current circumstances. With his corresponding comments, Osse's job as interim CEO turned into more of a mediator role at Wednesday's meeting.
"From my perspective," Osse said, "I think the board has got to make a decision in terms of who it is going to accommodate. Members of the community who are asking that the contract be severed so (previous) members of the medical staff will return or to accommodate our physicians who are working here, now and supporting the hospital."
"Emotions are very high on both sides," Osse said. "And I've listened to both sides. But right now, if I were asked to make a recommendation... as I've said before, I see no breach of contract. My recommendation is to stay where you are at. It would be, in my opinion, administrative malpractice to do anything other than that."
Board member John Giese reported that he received several calls from constituents who support staying with Sanford.
"They all said that if we go to Avera, they're leaving," Giese said. "If we don't stay with Sanford, they'll just find someplace else."
Moline reported that he also received calls from residents that want to stay with Sanford.
"I also walked the halls at the hospital yesterday," Moline said. "They (employees) also want to stay with Sanford."
An member of the crowd asked the board members if they would like to see the petitions signed by the people who want to switch.
"At least bring (Avera) to the table and let them answer those issues that were in the letter," the attendee said.
Another community member asked, "Or what about the people who have left the hospital as employees because of Sanford?"
"And the patients that have left?" another attendee asked.
Osse turned in his seat facing the board to address the crowd.
"I'm aware of your sensitivities with what the people want. I'm speaking strictly as the CEO of the hospital. The foundation, the client base, it's primarily your physicians. This (letter) is what the medical staff are saying. I know there are people in this room and this community that would like to have a change for whatever reason... I have to recommend that we do not change," he said.
"Where does the board doctor?" asked an attendee.
"Murray County Medical Center," Giese replied.
"Is that a HIPAA violation?" Moline asked.
Osse stopped the questioning by saying, "I think it's in inappropriate question. It doesn't matter where anybody goes. It's a personal question."
"If you want to come here, go to Avera, or go to Mexico, it doesn't matter." Osse said. "Where any of you go for your medical care should not be an issue."
A person in the crowd asked Osse, "So you are saying that you don't care about us, the hundreds that will go elsewhere for medical care?"
"That is not what I said," Osse replied. "It's your right to go where you wish to go. And if you feel that you want to follow your providers, I feel you should do that."
Regarding the providers who left and their ability to return without an Avera management switch, Osse brought up open privileges at MCMC.
"Any physician or practitioner can apply for privileges at the hospital,"?he said.
"I guess that the employees from the past are gone," said board member Dave Thiner.
"They're gone. We have physicians here that want to be here. Why should we jeopardize what we have? The door is still open. If they want to come back here to work all they have to do is qualify,"?he said.
After more back and forth comments from the crowd and the board about past hospital employees, another attendee addressed the board and placed blame on it for the problems the hospital has seen in the past year and a half.
"A big concern of everybody is that whatever management company you work with... If you continue to make the decisions and not look at the past... you're dooming the place," said the attendee.
"Everybody in the community wants to fix this," the attendee said. "It's one of the largest entities in the county, yet the meetings that you guys have... it's very clear that there's a lot of things where no one knows what the heck is going on. You are very, very uninformed."
"The management team runs the hospital," said Thiner. "It isn't our job to run the hospital."
"But it is your job to guide it," the attendee said. "And look where it got us in the last year and a half."
"In the end, we are responsible," Thiner said. "We have to hire the best people we can to run the hospital. Mistakes were made. But it's moving forward. You guys don't want the hospital to fail. I know you don't. Things are changing. We want it to succeed."