Hospital CEO shares COVID experience; directors approve new X-ray, mammo equipment

By Debra Moore

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Bill Wickman, president of the Plumas District Hospital Board of Directors, opened the Jan 14 meeting by commenting on Chief Executive Officer JoDee Read’s health, saying that he was happy that she could be part of the virtual gathering, though he did not specify the nature of her illness.

During a follow-up interview with Read the following day, she said that she had been diagnosed with Covid on Friday, Jan. 8, after experiencing some symptoms that Thursday.

“My symptoms have been relatively mild, except for having zero energy,” Read said Jan. 15. “You just don’t feel well.”

Read’s teen daughter also tested positive and is experiencing fatigue and cold symptoms. Neither has lost their sense of taste or smell.

Read said she’s pretty sure that she was exposed at work and despite the fatigue has been able to carry on with her duties. She added, “I’ve got a great team and they manage wonderfully.” And they have offered to bring her and her daughter whatever they need. “It’s a blessing to live in a community where people take care of you,” she said.

New equipment

The directors approved leases for two pieces of equipment: a 3D mammography machine and new X-ray machine.

Greg Perkins, who heads the radiology department, said that PDH needed to to move on to 3D systems since that is all that is offered in Reno. “The unit we’ve had has serviced us well, but the ladies in this town and the community demand the best and we’d like to give it to them,” he said.

Perkins recalled that about 40 years ago, then CEO Joyce Lighthill, insisted that the hospital acquire a mammography machine. “We were the first rural hospital in the state to put in a mammography system,” Perkins said. “I know it’s expensive but it’s a service that we really have to provide.”

Radiology staff tried three systems, but selected Siemens as the best (it was also the least expensive). The equipment costs $205,000 with a lease option. After some negotiating, the company provided an 18-month warranty, rather than the standard year. A year of service is roughly $38,000.

“For the other machine it’s at end of life,” Perkins said of the hospital’s X-ray machine. The new machine also will be a Siemens model. “We are getting a good discount because we are buying two together,” Perkins said. The new model will be mobile.

“We looked at replacing the X-ray unit inside the hospital but it would trigger multiple upgrades through OSHPD, estimated to be in excess of $1 million,” Chief Operations Officer Darren Beatty said. The mobile X-ray unit comes in at $130,918.

The mammography machine has a four-week lead time with one day to install and a week of training. The X-ray machine project will be completed this spring.

Board member Andrew Ryback said that typically the preference is to lease equipment to preserve cash flow, but said, he wanted to “make sure an analysis has been done so we can compare alternative strategies.”

Beatty said that the lease is 3.5 percent. The directors voted unanimously to proceed with the lease of the two pieces of equipment.

Committees

Andrew Ryback and John Kimmell will continue to serve on the finance committee. Guy McNett will attend the meetings to have more background on financial decisions, but due to the Brown Act will not be allowed to participate.

Valerie Flanigan and Bill Wickman will serve on the quality committee and McNett and Ryback will serve on the strategic planning committee.

Hospital Foundation update 

Bill Wickman provided a brief update to the directors. Work is underway to begin a capital campaign, which John Gay and Dwight Pierson have agreed to help spearhead, to raise funds for the planned skilled nursing facility.

Wickman reported that a letter campaign to raise funds for the Foundation in lieu of the popular Starry Mountain Nights fundraiser (cancelled due to COVID) generated $11,000.

Senior Life Solutions

This program will provide mental health services for seniors and will see its first patient Jan. 21, which is described as an intake day. The first group meeting is Jan. 22 – which will be a combination of telehealth and an in-person meeting. “The group is excited,” said Tiffiney Leonhardt. The first group is four patients, with a plan to add one new patient a week.

COVID

Director Kimmel asked about the impact of COVID on the emergency room. He was told that wait times fluctuate and are impacted when there are COVID patients, which require more time. As a result there will be two ER nurses staffed 24/7. The most COVID patients that the hospital has cared for at one time is four.

Public Health continues to work with all three Plumas County hospitals, including Plumas District, to vaccinate the population. This week there are 200 vaccines allocated to the three hospitals for the 75-plus age group. Read said that there are approximately 1,200 people in that group.

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