By Deb Murphy
The Inyo County Local Agency Formation Commission will weigh in on the dispute between Northern Inyo Hospital and Mammoth Hospital over Mammoth’s relocation and expansion of its orthopedic and physical therapy clinic in Bishop Monday, April 20 at its 10 a.m. meeting in the Bishop City Council Chambers.
NIH Chief Administrative Officer Victoria Alexander-Lane maintains that Mammoth is encroaching into NIH service boundaries and the clinic will put a financial burden on the Bishop hospital. In response, MH Chief Administrative Officer Gary Myers stated clinic is an extension of a 12-year Mammoth presence in the area having been asked by NIH to provide ortho services in 2003, followed by physical therapy services in 2011.
The LAFCO staff report cites Government Codes stating that a local agency “may only provide services within their boundaries or pursuant to an out-of-area service agreement.” The code requires a formal request and written approval from the impacted district before a public agency can provide services beyond its boundaries.
The exception, allowing a district to provide new or extended services, would be a threat to the public health or safety. The Code citations on providing services outside a district boundary do not apply “to an extended service that a city or district was providing on or before January 1, 2001,” two years earlier than the first Mammoth/NIH agreement.
The staff report recommends that the commission “authorize the Chair to sign correspondence…notifying (MH) of the requirements and provide information about how to proceed if it wishes to continue to operate outside its boundaries.”
One alternative is more draconian, requesting that Mammoth “cease its operations.” The 6,400 square foot clinic is currently undergoing renovations with a scheduled move-in date of June 1. Other options are to do nothing or for staff to provide additional research and bring the issue back at a later date.
Following two months of contentious board meetings, last Wednesday’s Northern Inyo Hospital meeting was calm and quiet, starting with acknowledgement of the Hospital Auxiliary’s contribution and ending with the report of an 8-percent increase in revenues and 44-percent increase in patient days.
During the public comment period, retiring nurse Martha Reynolds noted the challenges the hospital has faced. “This is an outstanding hospital with first class care,” she said. She noted the hard job nurses have, adding “the nurses have to ask themselves if it’s what they want to do.”
NIH’s policy changes in its employee handbook that raised questions, both for content and wording, in past meetings were both approved. The language was softened in the handbook’s Performance Improvement and Progressive Discipline policy. “Some employees found the language offense,” said Chief Executive Officer Victoria Alexander-Lane. “We re-wrote it to be more friendly but it says the same thing.” The re-worded policy was approved.
Eliminating the board of directors as a possible last word in the Employee Complaints and Grievance Process was approved with no changes. Board Member Pete Watercott suggested staying with the existing policy, allowing grievances to be appealed to the board, for the next year. “There may be one or two cases coming down the line,” he said. “If our progressive policy is applied appropriately, we will have an objective tool available.” When the board came to a vote, Watercott voted for the policy change.
Alexander-Lake reported on the recruitment of two physicians, surgeon Dr. Allison Robinson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Wilson of Big Pine and pediatrician Dr. Louisa Salisbury from Massachusetts.
The CEO reported on the hospital’s efforts to block Mammoth Hospital’s clinic in Bishop. “We met with Mono County’s LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) isn’t interested in taking it up,” she said. But, the issue will be on the agenda of the Inyo County LAFCO at its meeting in the Bishop City Council chambers Monday at 10 a.m. “If we don’t take care of this, it will be a big issue in the future,” Alexander-Lane said.