The Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) has reached agreement with its employees union. The union ratified the contract proposal, with approximately 85% of its voting members in favor. The contract thus agreed upon is a one year extension of the existing contract.
The idea to continue under the old contract for one more year came from the union. The bigger story lies in what the hospital administration had previously offered the employees union. According to a source familiar with the situation, initially MCDH offered a proposed contract that would have “trashed” the health insurance benefits of the employees, greatly increasing what employees would have to pay out of pocket for less coverage in order to maintain any health benefits whatsoever.
The union flatly refused that offer. Next, MCDH apparently attempted a divide and conquer strategy by offering the hospital's nurses, lab technicians, and X-ray techs a 10% raise. The flip side of that offer: every MCDH employee below the nurse and tech salary level would end up paying for their own insurance.
As an old teacher used to say, "there you have it," a hospital administration attempting to cut the health benefits of hospital employees, including caregivers. More math: the same hospital board of directors just hired (Spring 2015) a new CEO, Bob Edwards, for $320,000 annually plus a plum benefits package. The previous CEO, who was at times also performing the job of chief financial officer, received approximately $215,000 in annual salary. In addition, the hospital has just hired a new full time chief financial officer (CFO), Wade Sturgeon. What his salary will be is not known at this time.
The best guess is that the contract proposals to the employees union came directly from Mr. Edwards, considering that at least one member of MCDH's Board of Directors was not fully aware of the negotiation tactics as of the third week in August. Generally, a board of directors would not take any direct role in negotiations. However, it is the MCDH Board of Directors who are ultimately in charge, so these contract proffers to the employee union cannot be completely shunted aside as the responsibility of someone else.
At MCDH's August 25th Finance Committee meeting interim CFO Steve Miller detailed July, 2015 figures that showed the hospital with a net revenue loss of $36,872 for the month, a loss that was also $108,000 more than the projected budget. However, Miller spoke in optimistic terms about MCDH's long term potential to avoid a reversion to bankruptcy.
Speaking of that nasty term, bankruptcy. Everyone present at the August 25th Finance Committee meeting received a handout specifying MCDH's year by year schedule of payments through 2024. All of these numbers are subject to bankruptcy court approval, but here are the total annual payment obligations of MCDH. 2016: $1,370,473; 2017: $1,638,595; 2018: $1,547,177; 2019$1,635,794; 2020: $1,420,742; 2021: $1,118,864; 2022: $1,118,864; 2022: $1,113,921; 2023: $861,216; 2024: $857,654.
That adds up to $11,564,434. Readers should keep in mind that by law MCDH will be required to have a new hospital building in place by 2030.
Three members of MCDH's Board of Directors were newly elected last fall. Two of them, Drs. William Rohr and Peter Glusker are on the finance committee. Both seem intent on digging deep into the dollars that make up the MCDH budget as well as finding sensible ways to make prudent decisions on which departments need cuts and which need investment. However, these tough fiscal decisions will have to be made with two holdover board members still in the voting picture.
The two holdovers are Board Chair Sean Hogan and Tom Birdsell. These two require mention at this point in regard to the Brown Act. The Brown Act (1953) guarantees the public the right to attend civic meetings. Within the Brown Act are rules of law regarding the members of elected bodies such as the Mendocino Coast District Hospital's Board of Directors. One of those Brown Act provisions states: "The attendance of a majority of the members of a legislative body at an open and noticed meeting of a standing committee of that body, provided that the members of the legislative body who are not members of the standing committee attend only as observers." Thus, every member of an elected board, like MCDH's Board of Directors, could attend a committee meeting as long as they don't participate in that committee meeting.
The MCDH Board of Directors is made up of five members. The MCDH Finance Committee has two members of that Board on it. Dr. Rohr chairs the Finance Committee. At the August 25th Finance Committee, MCDH Board Chair Sean Hogan (a retired attorney) sat in the audience, but he did not remain a silent observer for long. He actively sought the attention of the committee, then proceeeded to give his opinion on agendized matters. If memory serves correct, Tom Birdsell was present at the May Finance Committee and also particpated in discussion with the committee during its meeting.
The MCDH Board of Directors appears to have grown accustomed to doing things without public scrutiny. The holdover members need to clean up their act in respect to not only dollars, but also common sense.