Hospital staff express concerns at Redfield City Council meeting, Tom Schneider appointed as interim hospital administrator
By Shiloh Appel
During the Redfield City Council meeting held on Monday, August 19th, four hospital staff gave their opinion on the recent decision of the city council to dissolve the hospital board and terminate Mike O’Keefe as hospital administrator.
“…I think the most important thing is that we all work together and get along. Including the city along with the hospital. All of us together. If we work against each other we are going to be at a standstill and we are going to go backwards. I hope the city council will keep Avera managing the hospital because if we don’t have them, we lose a lot of resources and there is no way that we can research all that stuff in this day and age in healthcare,” said Sandy Jungwirth, addressing the council. “…I really think that this whole situation is very unfortunate. I, myself, if I were a CEO, I would really think twice about coming here because I would feel like I was being thrown into the lion’s den, and as far as the hospital board, I just feel like there was some really good people on the hospital board, too.”
Heidi Gehrke, Rubiann Fisher, and Kris Brandt also addressed the City Council with concerns.
“The healthcare for this community is very important. Moving forward, I hope you will take into consideration of not just a few, but of the majority of the hospital staff. I work mainly now with the EMR,” said Fisher, referring to the hospital’s electronic medical records. “I am here to tell you, as Heidi will attest, the EMR is a very difficult thing, but it is a very important thing. I have seen great things happen because we have an EMR…We can’t go back to paper.”
“Most of you know me. I worked here for six short years. Prior to coming to Redfield, I worked at a facility …very similar to Avera - a nonprofit, Christian organization. When I came here, a lot of things were still in the dark ages, to be honest. We were about ten years behind where medicine should be.
I came here, worked for a couple years, Avera got involved and it really did seem like things improved,” said Heidi Gehrke. “That is not to say I am pro- Avera buying the facility. I don’t want that. I don’t think anybody wants that. It would be great if we could stay city-owned. We’ve got benefits. We’ve got a great group of providers. …I am not even sure what your reasoning is. It seems like that is top secret. …There are things that have happened that us as providers are not aware of, and I don’t think that’s fair. Perhaps you have reasons, but I have not been given any of those reasons.”
Kris Brandt also expressed her disappointment in the city’s decision and the council’s method of informing hospital staff.
“I appreciate that you went around and told everyone, but I think the directors should have had the opportunity to be told first. [Staff] look at us for direction and we had staff members that heard that before the directors,” said Brandt. “I appreciate what you were trying to do, but the next time you do this, I hope you will think about that.”
After each visitor had a chance to speak, Mayor Akin addressed all in attendance, informing them that the council has been in contact with Regional President and CEO of Avera St.Luke’s and Avera St.Mary’s, Todd Forkel, and “no bridges have been burned.”
“We want to keep our Avera plan and stay Avera managed. And, yes, they want to keep us,” said Akin. “The talk about everything being secretive and behind closed doors and everything…Some of you know, and Kris, you will understand this, when you have an executive session and it is a personnel matter, that is to protect the parties on both sides so that is why there is not talk as far as ‘why.’ The decision has been made. That is to protect both parties… That is how it works in executive sessions. We can’t talk about the reasons ‘why.””
During a follow-up interview with City Finance Officer, Adam Hansen, on Thursday, August 22, Hansen said that a new hospital administrator has been put in place.
“From last Thursday until Tuesday [August 20th] at about 1:30 p.m., I was the interim administrator,” said Hansen. “Now, we have Tom Snyder from Avera who is helping us out until we can get a permanent administrator back in place. He is the regional Vice-President of Network Operations. All of these smaller entities that are managed by Avera report to him…so he knows a lot of what was already going on at CMH because Mike was reporting to him.”
According to Hansen, plans are in place for the CMH board to eventually become its own advisory board once again. In the interim, the Redfield City Council will continue to act as the CMH board.
The city council’s first meeting as the CMH board took place on Monday, August 26th at 7p.m. in the hospital’s conference room.
“Moving forward, I can’t tell you if they will be here (at City Hall) or they will be there (at the hospital),” said Hansen, referring to the location of the CMH board meetings.
In closing, Hansen said he would like to see “everything keep moving like it is moving.”
“The people are wonderful employees that do a great job and that place is just a building without them. Its the employees that make it go. We have wonderful employees, so we want to keep providing excellent healthcare because that is what we do,” he said.
Watch future issues of the press for more on this story