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EPHC board weighs in on new Verizon cell tower near its campus

At Eastern Plumas Health Care’s Dec. 5 board meeting, Josh Hart spoke during public comment about the Verizon proposal to build a 133-foot cell tower 200 feet from the Portola hospital.

Representing Plumas County Residents for Safer Telecommunications, he noted that Verizon has a cell tower on Beckwourth Peak already, and that RF (radiofrequency) radiation should be kept away from the hospital.

Hospital patients are often more vulnerable, and some people who want to use the hospital’s services won’t be able to because they are sensitive to the effects of radiation, he said. Hart requested that the board write a formal letter to the city of Portola, saying that they objected.

The board responded positively to Hart’s request. However, acting CEO Jayne O’Flanagan said they would need to check with the hospital attorney, as it was her understanding the board didn’t “have a right to write a letter.”

Board Vice Chairman Paul Swanson disagreed. “I question that,” he said, “we can take a stand [if it] impacts health and care of patients in this hospital.” McGrath agreed with Swanson, but told O’Flanagan to go ahead and check “the legality” of it.

The board then held a special meeting Dec. 13 to approve the letter to the city prior to the next public hearing on the conditional use permit for the tower, which was held on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Portola City Hall.

O’Flanagan reported that the board voted to have her write a letter to the Portola City Council “asking that they decline the variance request and take time to develop a comprehensive ordinance to address the placement of towers in the city of Portola.”

Former CEO’s severance agreement finalized

The board voted to approve the final version of former CEO Todd Plimpton’s severance agreement. O’Flanagan explained that, per the board’s instructions, she and EPHC attorney Steve Gross came up with the final agreement, which Plimpton and O’Flanagan, as acting CEO, both signed.

New building

There was mention by McGrath, who also sits on the board’s planning committee, of a meeting with staff and architects regarding new building plans.

According to McGrath, “We decided which new buildings are imminentand need to be done.” The architects, she said, will “put it all together and come back to the board” for approval at the beginning of January. She didn’t specify the nature of the construction projects, and she didn’t respond to a request for comment on recent board activities.

Clinic upgrades and provider departures

Clinics Director Rhonda Grandi reported that Anthem Blue Cross did a clinics audit in October and “there was a lot of documentation deficiency,” but EPHC has received $60,000 in grant funding from Anthem BC for upgrades, including onsite training for provider education, quality measures, and upgrading note templates to meet documentation requirements. In addition, the funding will pay for an intensive customer service training program to help the clinics create an “organizational, cultural shift in terms of focusing on patients,” said Grandi.

Finally, they will be able to replace the stress echo machine at the Graeagle Clinic, which is used heavily by Dr. Dhond for his cardiac patients. The current machine, according to Grandi, is still utilizing VHS tapes. “With this money, we can do these things,” she said.

Also, she reported that long time FNP Mary Morrison is out “until the end of the year at least.” And, Dr. Aggarwal, who joined EPHC this past January, will be leaving in January of 2020 “for personal reasons.” Grandi reported that they are currently searching for new primary care physicians.

Acting CEO’s second act

Acting CEO Jayne O’Flanagan returns to the role for a second time. She reported that Corina Corrbridge will be heading the ambulance service on an interim basis. She said that an EPHC ambulance was totaled recently when it was hit by a drunk driver. The replacement ambulance was delivered Dec. 7.

A second new ambulance is also on its way, thanks to Bob Franks of Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District.

According to O’Flanagan, Franks searched online and found the ambulance. Corrbridge and CFO Katherine Pairish quickly completed the purchase. Then, Franks and his wife Elaine flew to Texas and drove the ambulance back.

When she asked Franks why he did that, O’Flanagan reported he told her, “Because the community means so much, and we need to have the services available.”

“That’s an incredible display of their sense of community,” said O’Flanagan. “There’s no way to express what we owe to them for doing that.”

Finally, she reported that the board has been asking about quality measures, and “We’re starting to get it working again.”

Donna Dorsey who, along with Penny Holland, is “keeping nursing going” in the absence of a CNO, said they are interviewing for a quality coordinator. They have collected information from incident reports, said O’Flanagan, but there hasn’t been any analysis, and no action has been taken.

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