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Gridley Herald - Gridley, CA
  • An Open Letter of Apology to the Communities Served by Our Hospital

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  • The Hospital Board of Directors has heard the opinions expressed about the announced hospital name-change loudly and clearly. We know that it has caused a great deal of upset, especially among some of our long-time supporters and members of families who actually helped found the hospital. A native of Richvale, I am also a member of one of those families. My father was a founder, a board member, and a board chairman, and my brother was a board member and continues to serve the hospital on the Foundation Board. Both my wife and I have found among our family keepsakes a membership certificate evidencing a contribution to the original fund drive. I can relate to the feelings of disappointment and anger, and it was not an easy decision for me to make. In any event, I and the entire board of directors acknowledge that the process of changing names was a flawed process – in other words, we could and should have gone about it in a different way, and we’re sorry! As we move forward in this 21st century, the Board feels that we can best honor our past and our heritage by ensuring the hospital’s future for these and future generations. We have spent the last nearly four years since the community “bought back the hospital” catching up after years of neglect: improving patient care, updating our medical equipment to state of the art, remodeling our Donald E. Sullivan Medical Specialty Center and our in-patient rooms, attracting new physicians to the community, building a quality management team, recruiting outstanding department heads, and building a budget process from scratch. It has been a struggle, but with your support we are still here! We must focus now on enhancing our market share in order to meet the challenges we will face under the Affordable Care Act. A stark fact is that our patient mix is primarily Medicare (44%) and Medi-Cal (37%). We barely break even on Medicare patients and lose money on Medi-Cal, for which the current reimbursement is on average 25% of the actual cost. All our patients are valuable to us; however, a key to financial success for this hospital is attracting more persons with quality health insurance to the Medical Specialty Center and other hospital services. Currently, less than 12% of all our patients are commercially insured, which is the only source we have to make enough profit to reinvest in updating the facility. It is the expansion of this market which will ensure that local medical care, in their own community, remains available for our Medicare and Medi-Cal patients who depend on us, and which will be a major key to success of our new Emergency Department. When the hospital was initially constructed, there was no Internet, and no Google, and very little television. Government was not a major player in health care, except for the County Hospital in Oroville. Some had health insurance, but many just paid as they incurred the expense. Today, there are multiple insurers, multiple governmental payors, and a mobile, somewhat fickle public who has choices where they spend their health dollar. A large part of this public relies extensively on electronic media. A simple, easy-to-remember name, easily searchable on the internet, is but one part of the marketing tools required to expand our market-share. One of the things we learned as we went through the name-change process was that not every name is easily adaptable to internet communication, and not every name we might have chosen was available. The members of the hospital board love this hospital and the communities we serve, and have spent countless hours in our efforts to improve medical care in those communities. We understand your frustration and fully accept all the blame due us for our handling of this process. It is our fervent hope that you will not blame or punish the hospital due to our actions. Whatever the name above the door, it is the same hospital, the same physicians, and the same remarkable employees. The employees and board members of the Hospital and the Foundation are committed to serving the healthcare needs of these communities far into the future and we hope for your continued support. Sincerely, John T. Harris, Chair For the Board of Directors, Margaret Brown, Ed Becker, Clark Redfield, Bert Nielsen, Curt Engen, Joe Cunha
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