Southern Mono Healthcare District press release
A Sacramento court has ruled in favor of Southern Mono Healthcare District (Mammoth Hospital) in a lawsuit brought by Northern Inyo Hospital (NIH) and the Inyo County Local Agency Formation Commission, commonly known as “LAFCO”. NIH and LAFCO sued Mammoth Hospital asking the court to evict Mammoth Hospital from Bishop, where Mammoth Hospital has provided clinical healthcare services since 2003. The lawsuit was filed in August of 2015, which was two months after Mammoth Hospital opened its Main Street clinic.
NIH and LAFCO claimed Mammoth Hospital had to first apply to, and receive approval from, LAFCO before it could open and operate the Main Street clinic. Mammoth Hospital took the position the clinic was a relocation of previously existing clinical facilities which the hospital had been operating in Bishop since 2003, and therefore, the hospital had no obligation to seek LAFCO approval. The parties presented their positions at a final hearing on the issues of the case before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang on March 3 in Sacramento. On April 12, Judge Chang issued her written ruling denying the petition and complaint of NIH and LAFCO and finding in favor of Mammoth Hospital.
Mammoth Hospital was represented by its long-time general counsel David Baumwohl. Mammoth Hospital CEO Gary Myers said. “This is a major victory, not only for Mammoth Hospital, but for the people and communities served by our Healthcare District.”
Myers described the history of Mammoth Hospital’s presence in Bishop as follows. “We first came to Bishop in 2003 to provide orthopedic services in the community at the request of NIH due to the only orthopedists, Drs. Jon McLennan and Andrew Opfell, leaving Bishop, and the community then being without orthopedic care.
From 2003 through 2015, Mammoth Hospital staffed several facilities in Bishop to provide orthopedic services, including physical therapy. As patient demand for services grew, the Mammoth Hospital Board of Directors determined in 2014 that existing facilities were inadequate to serve the community. This led to the hospital leasing the Main Street location and building a modern orthopedic clinic which opened in June 2015.”
A few weeks before the opening of the Main Street clinic, LAFCO sent Mammoth Hospital a letter demanding the hospital apply to LAFCO for approval before commencing operations. Attorney David Baumwohl sent LAFCO a letter in May of 2015, setting forth the position of Mammoth Hospital and declining to make an application to LAFCO. NIH and LAFCO then filed the lawsuit.
Myers stated “it became clear to us through evidence in the litigation that NIH saw the presence of Mammoth physicians and hospital staff and facilities as improper competition. This claim was never raised until the District opened the Main Street clinic and after spending several hundred thousand dollars on improvements and equipment.”
Myers stated its board and administration asserted throughout the litigation that “the controlling factor for both hospitals should be patient choice for healthcare in these rural communities, not limiting choice through unnecessary and wasteful litigation.” The closure of the Mammoth Hospital clinic would have immediately terminated operations and orthopedic and physical therapy care for hundreds of Inyo County residents and residents of the Swall Meadows and Paradise communities who have chosen to obtain their care at the Bishop location of the Mammoth Orthopedic Institute and S.P.O.R.T. Physical Therapy.
“We are obviously pleased with the judge’s ruling in this case and believe this is a victory for all of our patients in the Eastern Sierra as well as our hospital. We hope that this will put an end to this matter and allow us all to move ahead with placing our energies and combined resources fully toward improving health care services for everyone in our rural region,” said Myers.
NORTHERN INYO HEALTHCARE DISTRICT STATEMENT
The following is a response to a news release issued by Mammoth Hospital regarding the LAFCO lawsuit:
“The District and LAFCO are reviewing with legal counsel the decision issued by Judge Chang and the best options for the people of the Northern Inyo Healthcare District going forward.”