SHCHD says goodbye to Judi Gonzales

GARBERVILLE >> Fellow board members, employees and community members said goodbye to board member Judi Gonzales at the Thursday, Aug. 28 Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District board meeting. She was presented with a plaque thanking her for her service. Gonzales is moving out of the area to take care of a family member.

Board member Gary Wellborn thanked Gonzales for the past two years of service.

SHCHD Administrator Harry Jasper told Gonzales, "You challenged us from the beginning. You have made a positive difference to the district."

Board president Barb Truitt added, "You were the soul of integrity."

Gonzales responded by telling the board, "I am leaving this board with a positive outlook. I've been following this board for a long, long time. The district and Harry are doing a wonderful job and are looking to improve and involve the community."

There were originally three board seats up for election including Wellborn and Truitt in November, but because there were no applicants only the vacancy by Gonzales will need to be filled. Wellborn and Truitt will serve another four years until 2018. The board will take nominations for the vacant position up until Oct. 4. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will most likely appoint someone from this list. If no one is nominated, the supervisors will make their own choice. Because the board still has four members, which is a quorum, it is most likely there will not be a temporary member appointed.

Rural Health Values Project

The Rural Health Values Project is moving forward. A strategic planning meeting will be held on Oct. 16 with public participation encouraged. A visiting team will be here to take part.

District participation

Jasper met recently with Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell to discuss the district's participation with the county. He said the meeting was very positive and stressed to Fennell the need for more mental health assistance and quick response from law enforcement. They also discussed the challenge in recruiting employees for the area. As reported a few months earlier one employee came here with her family but only stayed three days after a bad experience with transients. A new emergency room hospital nurse manager will start on Sept. 13. The district is still looking to fill other positions including community outreach worker, certified nursing assistant, clinical lab scientist, licensed vocational nurse, and an advanced practitioner.

Jasper told Fennell that the district is a credible voice in asking the county to work with us. He said, "It's not a small task to have an effective voice for Southern Humboldt."

He said the short term goals are challenging due to current economic shortfalls at the county level. The passage of the tax measure that will be on the November ballot is no guarantee there will be funding for the services we want and need here. However, he did say he hopes the supervisors use the money wisely and as promised for more law enforcement if the measure passes.

Financial report

Jasper reported that the district continues to be financially strong and viable. The transition with the new billing partner is moving forward and the accounts receivables should continue to grow over the next few months. He said the charity care cases continue to be a problem with collections. Staff must be careful and ask the right questions when someone comes into the emergency room such as,"How do you expect to pay for your care? Do you have insurance, etc?"

Interim Business Office Manger Diane Meredith-Gordon said staff is being trained in the new software, that went live on July 31. She said, "There have been some hiccups, but things are gong forward." Payments from Medicaid and MediCal have been delayed, but this is not affecting the district's cash flow and payments should be coming in soon.

She said this facility is different than most I have worked with because you have a board that is not broken. Most of your problems come from internal communication, which starts at the top and goes down. She has had to make some popular and not-so-popular changes but thinks it will definitely be better in the end. It is important that all staff receive the necessary training to make everything work like it should.

Electronic Health Records

Jasper reported on the progress of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) project. He is continuing to meet with representatives from both vendors, Healthland and CPSI. Dr. Matuszkiewicz discussed how providers could use these systems more effectively with representatives from Healthland, who were very impressed with his software knowledge and are eager to work with him. Jasper said both Healthland and CPSI are campaigning hard to get SHCHD as a customer. District employees will be attending user conferences in Las Vegas as guests of CPSI in September and Healthland in October.

Jasper said there is no clear winner between the two companies. After the user conferences hopefully the district will be able to see the pros and cons of the two. Both of these vendors are eager to have the district as a client and have expressed that we are exactly the kind of hospital they want to be a model for future hospitals. Delaying this decision for four years has been beneficial to us as a small, rural medical facility.

These companies have spent $50 million on marketing for the future of EHR. Hopefully 70% of our costs of instituting EHR will be paid with incentive funds and Jasper said their commitment guarantees both of our successes.