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EPHC board talks growth and future plans including urgent access clinic

By Lauren Westmoreland

The Eastern Plumas Health Care (EPHC) Board of Directors held a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, March 24, at 9:30 a.m.

The meeting opened with a call to order by Chairwoman Gail McGrath, with a suggestion from Director Paul Swanson, MD to add a public comment session at the beginning of the meeting in addition to the usual time for comment toward the end of the meeting. It was also clarified that people could make public comment on each individual agenda item.

EPHC Auxiliary report

McGrath reported that in January, there was a $1,880.47 net profit posted at the Nifty Thrifty in Portola, and the profit in February was $6,842.34, with an ending balance of $149,516. “The memorial fund for scholarships that go to EPHC workers is $7,284,” McGrath reported.

Infection control

Michelle Romero of Infection Control reported that they were continuing to see very low positivity rates for covid, with the test positivity rate at this point in time being at 1.7 percent. “We have seen a recent uptick in G.I. illness in the Loyalton Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF),” Romero noted.  “The lab test is pending for norovirus. We have several staff out with the same symptoms.”

Chief Nursing Officer Penny Holland reported that staff is preparing for a state inspection expected “any day now.”

Human resources report

Human Resources Director Lori Tange reported many positive trends in the labor market. “Since the bottom fell out of the economy in 2020, the labor force participation rate has increased for most groups, with the biggest exception to that being older Americans. People have mainly switched to better jobs, making this more like the ‘Big Switch’ than the ‘Big Quit,’” Tange said.  “With our trends, we didn’t see a big quit or exodus — things pretty much stayed the same over the last four years. We kind of stayed in our own little bubble.”

“Maybe we could use those observations, they are very good,” Director Linda Satchwell commented.

CFO report

Chief Financial Officer Katherine Pairish reported on financials for the eight months ending Feb. 28, 2022 as compared to last year.

“Eastern Plumas Health Care continues to do well,” Pairish noted. Total year-to-date revenues were over last year by $5,454,975, which is a 22 percent increase. Total expenses were also up over last year at $3,059,585, or 16 percent. … We will want to be mindful of our operating expenses as we move forward.”

Director of Clinics report

Director of Clinics Paul Bruning reported “We had our best month in terms of revenue last month for the fiscal year, primarily due to having a second dentist — the dental clinic almost doubled its income. We were well over our three percent growth margin by almost $100,000.”

Bruning went on to note that they were starting the process of their bi-annual review for the clinic as required by rural health care, with a potential for a site visit coming up for recertification. “Recently, our clinical supervisor resigned from that role, so we are working on moving the clerical support supervisor into that position on a more full-time basis,” Bruning said. “We’re also advertising for a clinic support manager.”

Bruning also noted EPHC is starting an urgent access clinic to help with the increase need for sick and same day visits. “Our primary care doctors are having a hard time getting in their own patients as the population base increases during the season,” Bruning said. “Currently, they are scheduling about two weeks out for people to see their primary care doctor. We need someone dedicated to same-day care, for injuries. We will also implement in-office dispensing of medications when the pharmacy is already closed in the evenings, also in Graeagle and Loyalton where there are no pharmacies.”

Director of rehabilitation report

Director of Rehabilitation Services Jim Burson reported that the community had been providing positive feedback on the therapy and wellness center.

“I also wanted to mention that our average patients per day in the therapy and wellness department are up 20 percent from the same time last year, and new referrals are up 66 percent,” Burson said.  “We’ve been collaborating with Big Fish Creations to advertise our various therapy options, such as speech therapy. I think the outreach is working and I also strongly believe in word of mouth. We are three years young now, and I think that we are starting to make some headway.”

Regarding the new therapy and wellness center to be constructed on the campus in Portola, Burson reported that they had made revisions yesterday to plans for the first floor, and thanked CEO Doug McCoy for his support in moving forward with plans to include a larger therapy pool which would allow for small classes in addition to one-on-one sessions for patients.

CEO report

Chief Executive Officer Doug McCoy reported first that he was just “so proud of the team.” “One of the things that comes to mind is that the last two years have really been spent trying to mitigate the impact of covid, but we haven’t been able to share with the community all of things that are impactful that EPHC is doing for the communities we are serving,” McCoy said. “It’s still amazing that we went from one to 14 staff members at the physical therapy department, and very excited to see what the next year has in store for us.”

McCoy highlighted the new quarterly EPHC newsletter, which will kick off with a Spring issue in April.

McCoy reiterated his cautious optimism in terms of the decrease in covid rates on campus. “Our campus rates decreased from 27 percent to two percent from December/January to now,” McCoy added.

McCoy also reported that there will be a return to some in-person meetings soon. “We are all eager to shift to in-person format again,” he said.

In closing, McCoy noted that after a lengthy delay in permit approvals for the new Loyalton clinic, EPHC was prepared to place the bid out for contractor review and initiate the construction process.

“Our target had been a July opening date but may be moved given the unforeseen delay in receipt of city approval on the project,” McCoy said.

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