Archive for December, 2008

2008 Year End Report
—Posted Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 at 7:11 pm— « »

As we come close to the end of another year, it seems appropriate to reflect on the milestones and accomplishments of the past year. 2008 has been a monumental year for Mendocino Coast District Hospital in many ways. This is the year that we began moving forward with many construction and equipment projects that have waited for many years. For example, we received a Federal grant this year which will allow us to remodel and expand our Pharmacy department. We also designed a new Diagnostic Imaging Center and it is currently out to bid.

This was occurring at a time while we were also weathering, perhaps, the worst financial crisis in the history of California (although most are predicting that 2008 was just a precursor of worse things to come in the future). While the State began withholding Medi-Cal (Medicaid) payments to hospitals in June of this year, our hospital managed to maintain itself without borrowing. This was in sharp contrast to many small hospitals in the State that were brought to the brink of closure earlier this year due to the State’s withholding of funds.

In fact, we ended our fiscal year with the most financial success that we have had in over 10 years. We had an operating gain of $500,000 (something that nearly 50% of California hospitals did not achieve last year) and a total positive bottom line of $1.5 million. Our success was due to many factors. First and foremost is a great team of employees and doctors. We are blessed to have such incredible talent in a small community such as ours. Second, its been the renewed faith of our community in our small hospital. Our numbers on the outpatient side continue to climb. Lastly, it has been the Federal government’s foresight to create the critical access hospital program. Without the cost based reimbursement that we receive from the CAH program, we would be history.

Finally, this has been a year to say goodbye to good friends and key architects of MCDH’s climb toward improvement. We lost 2 long time Board members this year because they chose not to run for re-election. They are Camille Ranker and Don Tucker. Also, we lost our CFO, Wayne Allen, who has been so vital to the financial turnaround of our facility. I wish Camille and Don all the best, as they get a well-deserved break from hospital service. And I especially wish Wayne Allen all the best, as he has moved on to another challenge at a financially distressed hospital in Hawaii (OK, many people are not feeling sorry for Wayne because of the financially distressed hospital – he does get to live in Hawaii after all).

And I am looking forward to new leadership for 2009. Last week Tom Birdsell, a relatively new Board member (just 2 years on the Board) was voted by the Board to ascend to the position of Chairman of the Board. And new Board members Sean Hogan and Patricia Jauregui-Darland have now come on board to join continuing Board members, Mike Dell’Ara and John Kerman. We are well into the process of hiring a new CFO too.

All, in all, I feel that the future is very bright for MCDH. Even in these financially challenging times. That is because we have great people to call upon (from the Board to the medical staff to the hospital staff) and a community that supports us. Thank you to the community of Fort Bragg, Mendocino and outlying areas for your support. Happy New Year 2009!

Happy Holidays from Mendocino Coast Hospital
—Posted Monday, December 29th, 2008 at 3:05 pm— « »

I certainly enjoy the color and the family spirit of the holidays. One of our traditions at Mendocino Coast District Hospital is an annual door decorating contest (no fire doors please). This year we had an exceptional response from our staff. 10 departments decorated a door and many of them went all out to celebrate the contributions of each member of their department. Rehab services, Human Resources and Medical Staff services all took the time to take photographs of their staff (and in the case of Medical Staff services, pictures of our doctors too) and attached them to their doors.

The winning entry was from our Hematology – Oncology Clinic (shown in the picture). They decorated a wall entitled “What’s Cooking in Oncology?” They attached gingerbread men (and women) with staff member names and they attached many recipes. Some sounded so good that the Hem-Onc staff had a hard time keeping them attached to the door. Some others were recipes of oncology drugs! Congratulations to Dr. John Rochat and the Hem-Onc staff. You have certainly added to the color and festiveness of this season!

Fort Bragg Lighted Truck Parade
—Posted Wednesday, December 17th, 2008 at 1:18 pm— « »

Congratulations to the MCDH team for our Runner Up Award winning float in this year’s Fort Bragg Lighted Truck Parade. Our entry of Santa’s sleigh pulling a bag of goodies for the hospital (including a new gurney and a new wheelchair) was a crowd pleaser. Thank you to everyone that participated in putting this float together (especially our Chairman, John Funderburk). This is a great reflection of our hospital in the community.

The Tree of Honor and Memories
—Posted Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 6:47 pm— « »

One of the greatest traditions that we have at Mendocino Coast District Hospital is the Annual “Light A Life” Tree Lighting Ceremony that takes place in December of each year. This emotional ceremony, put on by the MCDH Hospice, allows anyone to either honor living loved ones or memorialize our deceased loved ones with a Star on our Tree.

So far this year, more than $20,000 has been raised for Hospice. This year’s ceremony was especially memorable and touching for me. My father passed away last year after a 3-year bout with cancer. He lived his life to the fullest almost all the way to his last breath. And when he passed away, at home due to the support of his local hospice, he was surrounded by all 4 of his children.

This year’s “Light A Life” ceremony was special for another reason too. This year Hospice recognized 1 of it’s founding “fathers,” Dr. Don Hahn. Dr. Hahn is a beloved family physician who trained at Johns Hopkins University Medical School but has devoted his life to our local community. We are so lucky that he made that choice. Dr. Hahn is now retired from the practice of medicine, but he was on hand to receive a plaque and the heart felt gratitude of everyone in attendance. We are so fortunate in this community to have such a wonderful hospice program and to have wonderful doctors like Dr. Don Hahn!

Happy Thanksgiving
—Posted Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at 6:09 pm— « »

Last week in addition to celebrating one of my favorite days of the entire year, Thanksgiving, we also held the last MCDH Board of Directors meeting (for the time being at least) in which Camille Ranker and Don Tucker participated as Directors on the Board. Camille and Don have served our hospital for over 40 years in total. Camille has been on the Hospital Board for 23 years. Don served on the Planning Committee for many years before finally accepting a seat on the Board 6 years ago.

They have both seen this hospital through a very difficult time, from a hospital on the brink of bankruptcy to one of the great success stories of hospitals in the United States today. We will never be able to completely thank them for their service and their dedication. And we will miss their wisdom and advice very much. Best of luck to both of you as you take a very well earned break from hospital governance. During this time of thanksgiving, I would like to thank both of you for everything that you have done for our hospital and for what you have meant to our hospital. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for both of you.

Emergency Response
—Posted Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at 5:42 pm— « »

On November 12, 2008 at approximately 9:30 a.m. our hospital was notified by the City of Fort Bragg of an emergency situation that was occurring in our city. A large truck had sunken into a city street and had ruptured a major water main. Water was escaping from the water lines at a very high speed and it was uncontrolled.

The immediate problem for our hospital was not a loss of water flow to the hospital, but we did experience a dramatic drop in water pressure. This caused some key equipment in our hospital to become non functional, including our x-ray film processor and a sterilizer in our surgery department. And, of course it also caused an immediate problem in that our toilets would not flush.

It did not help matters that on this day we had a “full house” which meant that there was a great need for our toilets to work. Our emergency response team responded quickly. Gus Killion, our Chief Engineer sought out alternative sources of water (e.g. water trucks) and was in constant communication with the City. Linda Dutcher, our Director of Support Services immediately ordered bottled water from a local market (Harvest Market) and “porta potties” to be delivered to key locations outside public and staff entrances and exits. Roni McDermott did a great job as Incident Commander during the day.

And our staff was phenomenal. The housekeeping department delivered buckets of water from an outside hose, for flushing purposes (this process had been approved by the State Department of Health) and we prepared for the worst possible scenario, which would have been transferring patients out of our facility to other hospitals. Ukiah Valley Medical Center notified us that they had the bed capacity to accept all of our patients if it turned out that they needed to be sent out.

Fortunately, by 4:30 p.m. the City of Fort Bragg was able to control the water main break and water pressure was restored. My hat is off to the City of Fort Bragg, to our wonderful staff and to the staff of Ukiah Valley Medical Center. It was a tremendous team effort.