Coast Hospital To Seek Parcel Tax
by Malcolm Macdonald, February 10, 2016
By now it is no secret that Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) has put its toes in the water to test the public's temperature about a parcel tax that might raise between $1.5 and $3 million in additional annual funds for the hospital that is little over a year removed from bankruptcy. Folks like MCDH Chief Executive Officer Bob Edwards and Hospital Foundation President Steve Lund are putting a positive spin on things for the general public. However, MCDH's own surveys and studies, some of which the hospital paid tens of thousands of dollars for, paint a different picture.
In a survey of patients comparing Mendocino Coast District Hospital to other area hospitals, as well as state and nationwide, the ability of MCDH doctors and nurses to communicate well was given only two stars on a one to five star basis, placing MCDH's professionals in the bottom 15%. In answer to the question, “Would you recommend MCDH to others,” patients gave the Mendocino Coast hospital the lowest rating in the area, 3% lower than Ukiah Valley Medical Center, 6% less than Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa, 8% lower than Santa Rosa Memorial, 18% less than UCSF Medical Center, and 21% lower than Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits. In a generalized approval rating, from 0 to 100%, MCDH garnered only a 58% score, lagging 23% behind Howard Memorial. The statewide and national scores were 15-16% higher than MCDH.
According to a Press Ganey study of more than 3,000 acute care hospitals in the United States the greatest factor driving profitability resides in the culture of engagement within the workforce at a given hospital. The most recent study on that matter, performed by the Gallup Organization in 2013, showed that 2/3 (66-67%) of nurses and physicians employed at MCDH fell into the categories of “Disengaged” or “Not Engaged” workers, meaning that, at best, only one third of MCDH's professionals were/are engaged in what they are doing while at the facility.
Any reader might ask, where did I find this information? Answer: Simply by attending the Hospital Foundation's January Board meeting, where MCDH Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon voiced the words to CEO Edwards' power point presentation (a recent operation has limited Edwards' ability to speak). There were no other members of the press present and darn few, if any, members of the public present outside the Foundation's own Board members and staff. A similar presentation has also been made before the MCDH Board and at least one of its committees, but without the attention to detail it received at the Hospital Foundation gathering.
Back to the studies, one of which concerns cutting expenses. Citing the language of Quorum Health Resources (an outfit that provides consulting, training, and implementation support to hospitals), CEO Edwards' presentation states (and hospital employees may want to perk up their ears here), “Through 2014, MCDH achieved Personnel Expense reduction; however, the best performing Quorum CAH [Critical Access Hospital] facilities indicate further reduction is possible.”
Currently, the prime reason for the need to pass a parcel tax, which requires a two-thirds voter approval for passage, is the $1.7 million loss in the hospital's Emergency Room last year. That loss is attributable to one thing, ER patients are not becoming admissions to the hospital at the rate they were just five years ago. Using the numbers provided in Edwards' presentation, a return to the number of ER patients who followed up as an admission (about 230 more out of 9,000 or so patient visits to the ER annually) to the hospital would raise approximately $ 2.75 million in revenues by itself, without a parcel tax.
Readers may want to know that the average wait time at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital ER is reported as thirty-five minutes, less than the 40-47 minutes at the two Santa Rosa hospitals, but fifteen minutes longer than at Ukiah Valley Medical Center and seven to eleven minutes longer than the state and national averages. You may have noted the word “reported” before the MCDH Emergency Room wait time. That is because the MCDH numbers are based on internal rather than the public records regarding all the other facilities mentioned.
Using the recommendations of Quorum, CEO Edwards presented the following power point statement concerning the hospital's engagement of the local community, “MCDH is to develop a comprehensive marketing plan designed to gain enhanced understanding of district resident awareness of MCDH and their preferences for service delivery to increase use.
“Components of the marketing plan will focus on establishing listening forums (i.e., ministerial alliance; residents external to Fort Bragg; recent patients); provision of positive “talking point” messages for the workforce to use in their community interactions; and systematic senior leader interactions with governmental, business, and social organizations.”
At one of the Hospital Board Committee meetings the question of how much a parcel would be taxed arose. The answers that came back most: either $150 or $250. Another query concerned taxing parcels of varying sizes. Both CEO Edwards and Hospital Foundation President Lund responded identically, “A parcel is a parcel.”
Readers may want to keep in mind that parcels within the Mendocino Coast Hospital District vary in size from town lots to single parcels of corporate timberland that measure in the hundreds of acres each.