There exists a distinct rift within the Board of Directors of Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH). The divide between new physician board members William Rohr and Peter Glusker and holdovers Tom Birdsell and Board Chair Sean Hogan was clearly in evidence at a August 27th meeting.
The event started fairly magnanimously with unanimous votes to further extend the negotiation period for Dr. Diane Harris through the end of the year (see earlier AVA articles for background on the uproar over Dr. Harris' contract). However, signs of disconnect were apparent from the first minutes when Chair Sean Hogan reported on matters from the closed session that preceded the public board meeting. Hogan stated that the employees union had concluded voting on a contract extension, but that he did not know the results of the vote. Apparently Hogan doesn't stoop to reading the AVA online or he would have known that more than 80% of the union voters approved the contract.
The crapola hit the fan during “New Business.” The item that sparked the fan was labeled “Determine MCDH negotiator for Dr. Diane Harris' contract.” Board member Tom Birdsell and MCDH's local attorney John Ruprecht made it clear that they did not want to set a precedent by having anyone other than the CEO, Bob Edwards, negotiating contracts. Drs. Rohr and Glusker proved equally insistent in reminding the board and the audience (largely hospital staffers) that it had been Edwards' proposed contract offer to Harris that had stirred up so much consternation that a couple dozen of Harris' patients had shown up at a special board meeting ten days earlier to express their displeasure at the whole contract mess. This particular item was eventually solved when Chair Hogan and Board member Kitty Bruning (who may not have spoken a dozen words in the entire three hour meeting) voted “aye” on a Glusker and Rohr motion to find something approaching middle ground (read as: a state mediator or arbitrator is likely to be the party bringing about the final contract agreement with representatives of Dr. Harris and the hospital, neither of whom will be Dr. Harris' spouse[Fort Bragg City Councilman Doug Hammerstrom] or new MCDH CEO Bob Edwards).
But we weren't done with the issue of Dr. Harris or the contract proposed to her by CEO Edwards in July. Nor were we done with the displeasure of the old guard (Birdsell, Hogan, and attorney Ruprecht) over the emergency motion made by Glusker, and seconded by Rohr, at the August 17th special MCDH Board meeting to offer Dr. Harris an extension to her current contract for the purpose of negotiating a new one. Chairman Hogan read forthwith from codes and regulations detailing the exact letter of the law regarding regular, special, and emergency board meetings. The upshot of Hogan's recitation proved that he (Hogan) did not believe the action taken in extending Harris had been played according to Hoyle. He didn't ask for a re-deal, but his recitation gave Birdsell and Ruprecht opportunity for self serving I-told-you-so remarks. Dr. Rohr essentially responded with words that said he believed more in protecting the rights of Dr. Harris' patients than any code. Glusker echoed those sentiments and Rohr came within two or three syllables of saying that the detailed code could be shoved where the sun don't shine.
Game on. Not to mention hypocrisy volleyed into Chair Hogan's court. You see it was this same Sean Hogan, this stickler to the intended detail of state codes who had sat himself down in the audience of MCDH's Finance Committee meeting just a few days earlier. The same Sean Hogan who then proceeded to take an active part in discussion on agenda items of said same Finance Committee, thus violated California's Brown Act (see my previous article on MCDH for more on that Finance Committee meeting of August 25, 2015).
By the time the August 27th meeting got down to “Old Business” the rift split into a chasm. The item: MCDH Primary Care Physician Boilerplate Contract Discussion. After Dr. Glusker affirmed Dr. Rohr's belief that the so-called “boilerplate” contracts were only to be used as a tool in recruiting beginning physicians and not to be used in negotiating renewal contracts with long established coastal physicians, like Dr. Harris, Tom Birdsell said that he thought Glusker had gone along with the idea of using the “boilerplate” contracts for CEO Edwards to negotiate with Dr. Harris. Dr. Glusker flatly denied any such thing. Furthermore, both Glusker and Rohr adamantly stated that each of them would have refused to sign such a “boilerplate” contract as the one offered by CEO Edwards to Dr. Harris and at least two other North Coast Family Health Center physicians.
Rohr and Glusker counter punched the meeting to a close with charts and graphics concerning the hospitals financial situation. This proved somewhat anticlimactic after the verbal body blows to the MCDH Board's holdover members. Rohr's financial presentation concluded with something of a refutation of the status quo with his visual statement that the proposed budget's projected $860,000 loss for fiscal year 2016 was “unacceptable.”