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The Grant County Commission may vote soon on what may be the biggest decision the commission has made in our lifetimes: To sell or not to sell our community hospital - Gila Regional Medical Center.
There are no easy solutions to GRMC’s lingering financial problems and while the decision to remain independent does not come without risk, I have publically stated that I don’t support the sale of the hospital and will vote for GRMC to remain independently owned.
A lot has changed since we began asking serious questions about the financial condition of the county owned hospital. Then, Gila Regional seemed headed for almost certain bankruptcy, having lost $22M in six years; including the loss of over $6 million in fiscal 2017 alone. The commission had every right and even the responsibility to ask questions and demand transparency. Gila Regional was suffering financially from mistakes of prior administrations - what new GRMC Chief Financial Officer Richard Stokes calls “A Self-inflicted wound."
[Editor's Note: Dr. Odocha told this editor, he had originally written this letter to his patients, but the BeatI asked him if we could publish it.]
Here it is:
To the editor:
It is easy to overlook the difficulties that you bear, just to see me. It is equally easy to brush aside the inherent dangers of surgery, of hospitalization that you recently went through, or about to undergo, and just look on the positive side of the outcome. These difficult and dangerous paths you had walked, or may soon walk, quietly, bravely and for the most part alone. Of course, a few tablets here, some drips there, a full house of heaven-bound prayers from family and well-wishers were or will be in the mix, too.
In recent months or so, however, it has been quite common, within context of changes and challenges facing the health care industry in general and Gila Regional Medical Center, Silver City, NM, in particular; to hear a great deal of debates, arguments, deliberations and some noise I must say, from insiders and outsiders—doctors, nurses, other care givers, lawyers, board members, county commissioners, consultants, hospital buyers, etc. From men and women whose role in your illness, surgery, hospitalization and care at Gila Regional Medical Center [GRMC] may have been marvelous or questionable at best. As your surgeon, I too, with much embarrassment may have unwittingly, been part of the latter group. For this, I must ask for your forgiveness before I go any further.
I have only been a doctor for seven years, and I have only been in Southwest New Mexico for three. I quickly became confident in and invested in the quality and success of our healthcare delivery systems here. Over time, I realized providers here are leaving, more quickly than new ones arrive. I still hold some hope that we can turn things around, and so wanted to share my thoughts around Gila Regional Medical Center (GRMC) at this time.
To my Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors:
First: who is responsible? And who is accountable?
I answer the first question with the cliché: we are all in part responsible. To the second question: it is no single person’s or entity’s fault.
Having just read Zach Taylor's reply to my rebuttal of his column, I would like to add a response and then I will cease this thread of dialogue.
Mr. Taylor said: "Moreover, we fully understand that brevity is frequently genius and therefore our op-ed pieces are not lengthy and many other news outlets limit to 150 words or less so we have been conditioned to brevity. Another positive about brevity is the reader is more apt to read a few salient bullet points than a scholarly tome, brevity promotes understanding."
Letter to the Editor:
It was with great dismay and a very heavy heart that I read Commissioner Edward’s recent remarks to us via her letter in the Grant County Beat. I want to attempt to express how disjointed, confusing and contradictory it was but first express how disappointing and wrong her complete dismissal of everything good and everyone’s work at our hospital. Not one mention to acknowledge or thank what our administrative team currently in place and our dedicated caregivers do every day. That was perhaps the most glaring omission and pretty unforgivable. Having worked for the hospital for ten years during some of the most difficult times, the disregard is striking and speaks volumes. This is not the voice of a partner but an opponent and calls in to question the ability to make good decisions for this community.
I just read your letter to the editor in the Grant County Beat. It was thoughtful and balanced. You are obviously working very hard at your job, something all of us, even if not in your district, appreciate.
You will never need my endorsement, but you got it anyway.
This letter is an attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding the hospital issue. By state statute, the Board of Trustees of Gila Regional Medical Center (GRMC) is not accountable to any entity, including the Grant County Board of Commissioners (GCBOC). The lack of a path for accountability and transparency is worsened by the New Mexico Open Meetings Act, which does not require hospitals to conduct their business in public. Under New Mexico’s Hospital Funding Act, the Commission appoints trustees, but the Act specifies that, “after their appointment, none of the members of the hospital governing board shall be removed except for cause specified in a written charge and after full public hearing on the charge.” In effect, the Commission has no recourse to address mismanagement – even when it threatens to bankrupt the hospital – other than to consider changing the ownership structure of the hospital.
The Commission instigated a partnership evaluation process primarily due to four major issues, 1) ever shrinking days of cash on hand, 2) the mill levy not passing, 3) how the cancer center issue was handled and 4) the amount of money it cost and is still costing to properly implement Meditech (electronic medical record system).
Check out a new column that will talk about the town of Silver City and its news and services.
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