Hospital board of directors celebrates

Because Eastern Plumas Health Care has been granted an exemption from the Medi-Cal cuts, distinct-part skilled nursing facility residents like Bob Kylberg will be able to stay at the hospital that has become their home. Photo by Carolyn Carter
Carolyn Carter

  The mood was light and smiles were aplenty at the Eastern Plumas Health Care board meeting Aug. 22. After hearing the hospital would be exempt from the 23 percent Medi-Cal cuts that threatened the facility with closure, there was a tone of triumph in the board members and hospital staff.

  Board Chairwoman Gail McGrath commended hospital Public Relations Coordinator Linda Satchwell for her outstanding diligence in researching and asking questions that brought essential facts to light.

  “(Satchwell) did an absolute bang-up job,” she said. “I want to commend her on her efforts.”

  The board congratulated Satchwell on her ability to dissect the access study orchestrated by the state, and find flaws, which created grounds to ask for an exemption from the drastic cuts.

  Satchwell accepted the thanks at the meeting and recognized CEO Tom Hayes as a vital instrument in the whole process. She said they covered a broad spectrum of possible solutions to the cuts, from legislative measures, multiple trips to Sacramento, and finally to the help of John Mendoza of the Department of Health Care Services.

  “We got lucky,” said Hayes. “We got someone from the state who cared.”

  Hayes also said that due to EPHC’s ability to get an exemption, 27 out of 56 other hospitals affected by the cuts would also be exempted.

  “It’s great that our little hospital did this,” said Satchwell.

  The board members agreed they would write a letter to the employees of the hospital and thank them for their steadfastness during the trying past few months.

  “The response from the community has shown joyous support of this hospital,” said Satchwell.

  Though the hospital is exempt from the cuts, there is still the matter of the retroactive cuts dating back to June 2011, which means the hospital still owes the state $2.4 million.

  Board member Lucy Kreth asked why the hospital had to pay back the retroactive cuts. According to hospital CFO Jeri Nelson, the state has already spent the money, and because it was a legislative process put into law, the state can’t go back and change it.

  However, Nelson said she believes the hospital will be given a period of 15 to 20 years to pay back the state.

  “It’s too bad, I agree it’s still wrong, but I feel really good about it,” she said.

  At this point, the exemption has made it possible for the hospital to open its doors again to Medicare and skilled nursing patients.

  Sue Whitfield, the director of skilled nurses for both the Loyalton and Portola campuses, said this is good news for her patients and the hospital.

  “I’m very excited because my residents, who I consider my family, won’t have to move,” she said. “It says to me that we are fighters, and we all pull together to get things done.”

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