The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Steve Salins

EARH Board talks new hires, future of Washtucna clinic


The East Adams Rural Healthcare (EARH) Board met on Thursday, May 23, as it discussed new hires, its relationship with a recruiting firm and the future of the Washtucna clinic.

CEO Gary Bostrom reported that Dr. Anthony Anderson has been hired to join the team of doctors, and would briefly come to the meeting for introductions, which he did. He will be working in the Emergency Room and doing hospital work until insurance companies approve his credentials. He met with Brandon Cline, managing editor of the Journal, for an interview that appears in this issue.

Bostrom also mentioned that Corey Fedie is the new incoming CEO, with his first day scheduled for June 10. He also announced that EARH has a signed letter of intent from Julie Trofibio, a nurse practitioner who anticipates joining the team in July. The board is sending her a contract this week. Meanwhile, outgoing CEO Bostrom will take up the duties of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) beginning on July 1, providing his service Tuesday through Thursday each week.

Other transitions are also taking place. Tanya Rodriguez is leaving, and her work as the administrative assistant, public relations officer and board recorder will be taken over by Brooke Pichette. Pichette will be planning a meet and greet for all of the new faces at the hospital, scheduled for some time in July after everyone has had time to settle in to new jobs and new surroundings.

A brief discussion concluded that the meet and greet should be scheduled for a time when community members would be able to attend without having to leave work—perhaps late afternoon and into an evening.

EARH also currently has a nursing position open and is continuing to advertise. Jennifer Pepperd (Chief of Nursing Operations) reports that nursing staff has been very good at covering for the open shifts the last few months.

Another transition: Attorneys are in the process of finalizing the sale of the Ambulance Association’s building and land to EARH. The Ritzville Planning Commission has approved EARH’s application for re-zoning the nursing facility, however one more meeting is needed and is scheduled for July 23rd. A mid-August closing date is planned.

The contract with Merritt Hawkins came under discussion after two incidents raised concern over a future relationship with the recruiter. The company wants $9,400 from EARH to produce and mail out a recruiting brochure. The financial request was a surprise to board members, and no mention of such events was made in the initial contract conversations.

Furthermore, the financial amount seems quite excessive for what was planned. Board members felt this not-up-front behavior raises questions regarding a continuing relationship. Second, reports have come from other hospitals about extremely questionable behavior by the sales person who was assigned to EARH by Merritt Hawkins to manage recruiting activity for EARH. A lively discussion concluded that EARH would definitely not accept the individual, and wants out of the contract ($30,000 for a year).

Concern was raised that if two significant complaints were made to the company, the company may subsequently treat EARH as a problem-child. The discussion ended with a decision to tell Merritt Hawkins to replace the sales person, and hold off, for the present, any discussion with them about the brochure situation or canceling the Merritt Hawkins contract.

Dr. Marty Sackmann reported that Dr. Anderson had attended his first medical staff meeting with good results. Dr. Sackmann noted that it takes 2-3 months for new medical personnel to learn a new medical computer system—to the point of being more difficult than learning a new language—and Dr. Anderson mentioned in his introduction to the board members that he was wrestling with his computer to learn the system.

Dr. Sackmann commented that EARH was blessed in having a full staff, and surmised that credentialing should happen within the time limits provided in the by-laws. At the same time, he called for patience with the time it takes for the learning curve of new team members. A question was put to Dr. Sackmann as to how the new staff members would fit in to scheduling needs. He responded that there is no certain timetable because of the need for credentials to be certified and the fluid schedules of the hospital.

The board had a discussion regarding the Washtucna clinic. In a nutshell, the financial drain coupled with a seldom demand for a doctor’s presence calls for shutting the clinic; while political expediency and concern suggests maintaining nearby medical care for area residents. Members clearly have a desire to serve residents of the area, and the board concluded to do research on where Washtucna residents go for medical care, which should be easy to do from ZIP code records kept by medical providers.

One proposal was to shut the clinic in Washtucna, and at the same time reserve a day (with transportation provided) for the few patients who are scheduled for monthly visits to maintain their care for ongoing medical conditions. Another suggestion from a community visitor is to donate the clinic and property to Washtucna for community use (senior center, community hall, etc.) as a gesture of goodwill toward the community, as well as providing the monthly transportation and care as previously mentioned. The proposed research results may suggest how to mitigate the apparent low usage of the clinic.


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