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EPHC talks staffing, mandates, and finance

The Eastern Plumas Health Care (EPHC) Board of Directors held a regularly scheduled meeting the morning of Thursday, October 28.

Chairperson Gail McGrath opened the meeting with roll call and the approval of the consent calendar.

McGrath then gave the auxiliary report for the Nifty Thrifty thrift store in Portola, noting that the store has been very busy, “with strong donations.”

Human Resources Director Lori Tange reported on staffing, tied into the overall state of employment in the country. “The national unemployment rate fell in September, with over seven million unemployed people in the US. That’s two million more unemployed people since February of 2020.

“Here at home, we continue to trend positive. Our hiring activities see an increase in service demand. We are using outside the box recruitment methods.”

Tange noted that one of EPHC’s biggest challenges is recruiting certified nursing assistants for the Skilled Nursing Facilities, or SNF.

“There’s a lot we can attribute to all of these shortages, but we’re not alone or unique in experiencing these shortages in nursing staff,” Tange said. “One reason is the rate of retirement for nurses; over half of the RN’s in the field are over 50 years old.” Director Linda Satchwell asked about new hires, and whether they are expected to need to be vaccinated, as well as whether that might be “part of the reason it’s hard to get new people.”

Tange replied that they are just going by the rules of the mandate, with medical and religious exemptions available. “If there are legitimate requests for exemptions, we are still reviewing those, with any position,” Tange added.

Director Teresa Whitfield asked how long it takes for EPHC to respond to those applying online, and Tange responded that it is up to the hiring manager. “It’s a wide range of when an applicant would be contacted,” Tange explained. “There is an auto-generated message generated for applicants. Most applicants are contacted if the hiring manager is interested in the applicant. We don’t reach out to every applicant, especially if they don’t meet the qualifications,” Tange added. Whitfield noted that she felt there needed to be more due diligence on communication with applicants so as to not lose them.

Director of Clinics Paul Bruning reported that an advertising campaign for Graeagle clinic has begun, with Truckee having several primary care providers retiring, causing an uptick of Truckee patients in Graeagle. “This includes pediatric patients,” Bruning said. “We’re also pursuing vaccines for a children’s program in Graeagle, and I’m working with Tahoe Forest Orthopedics to try and get someone here at least once if not two days a week.”

Clinical report
CEO Doug McCoy gave the clinical report, as the Graeagle clinic staff was busy working a booster clinic being held at the Graeagle site.

“Michelle Romero reported to me that there is still a high rate of positive cases on the drive-in testing. Unfortunately, both clinical leads and Dr. Paul Swanson have had couple of patients seek higher level of care, then come back, which we will continue to watch,” McCoy said.

McCoy also reported a high level of success with the new acute and emergency room equipment, such as new gurneys and ultrasound I.V.

“As of last week, staffing reports were very positive on the hospital side. We’re still working on staffing for the SNF based on the mandate issue that we have been working through,” McCoy added, before finishing with comments about the covid cases in Eastern Plumas. “A large volume of covid positive tests is coming from the schools. Most of the positives in the drive thru testing is coming in at the 40-60-year-old age range.”

Operational and financial report
McCoy then moved on to give an operational and financial report, highlighting the continued growth of EPHC in the financial performance sector.

McCoy also reported that clinic visits have increased year over year by 16 percent, and outpatient physical therapy has increased by 30 percent with the addition of three new therapists. Emergency room visits have also increased by 33 percent, with lab procedures up by 27 percent over the same period last year.

“The Loyalton clinic replacement project plans have been completed and will soon be submitted to the city for approval,” he noted.

“When it comes to finances, EPHC is three months into the fiscal year and continues to do well,” McCoy said.

Year-to-date gross patient revenues for the month of September were over budget by $1,024,412 and year to date income was over budget by $1,051,643. For the month of September, total operating expenses were under budget by $9,987. Since the onset of covid, as of September 30 of this year, EPHC has spent $1,424,505 on covid testing and supplies. In the current month, EPHC has spent $99,053.

Resolutions approved
The board went on to approve two resolutions, 294-Ambulance #6 and 295-AB 361.

The first resolution declared ambulance number six as surplus which is no longer used and authorized the disposal of the property by roll call vote.

Resolution 295-AB 361 was also adopted, authorizing ongoing electronically conducted meetings for the EPHC Board of Directors as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

After reviewing and approving policies, and with no public comment, the meeting went into closed session.

The Eastern Plumas Health Care Board of Directors meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at 9:30 a.m. via Zoom. For more information, contact Susan Horstmeyer at [email protected].

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