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6/4/2013 5:00:00 PM
Hospital rehires old ER doctors

Marty Bachman

BLYTHE - The Palo Verde Healthcare District Board voted 3-1 (with board member Quitty Piñon abstaining), to hire four individual doctors to staff the Palo Verde Hospital (PVH) Emergency Room beginning June 1 at its May 29 board meeting.

Former PVH ER doctors, Dr. Donald Runyan Dr. Matthew Kidd, Dr. Robert Strecker and PVH surgeon Dr. Frank Arko, will now staff the Emergency Room. The one-year contract allows the hospital or the doctors to terminate the contracts with 30 days notice.

According to hospital CEO Larry Blitz, the current emergency room contractors, Valley Emergency, gave notice in April that they were terminating their contract with the district as of April 24. Stating that the termination was illegal, Blitz said there was a series of notifications and the date was moved back to May and then May 15, May 26 and finally June 1.

Blitz said the termination notice put the hospital in a bind not allowing any time to seek Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from any other ER group and that the hiring of the four doctors was the hospital's best option given the emergency circumstances. Blitz said that Valley Emergency's termination date was a moving target, which further complicated the opportunity to seek other contractors. He also said the hospital wanted to avoid legal action, thus the rush to man the ER.

"There was concern on our part that we should countersue them in regards to them breaking the lease," Blitz told the board. "They didn't like the fact that some of their physicians were being taken to peer review, and for real legitimate reasons they were taken to peer review. There was a number of different issues that really murked the waters and the bottom line is we had to do what was best for the hospital."

Board member Catalina McLain disagreed with the hiring and said she didn't like being placed over a barrel having to make a decision to hire the doctors or watching the Emergency Room close in three days. She said the board was being forced into a decision on which the board had no say-so..

"We don't have the option to say yes or no," McLain said.

"Thank Valley for that," Board member Sandy Hudson responded.

McLain questioned why the Medical Staff was involved in the negotiations instead of the CEO. Blitz responded that while he knew contractors who would have sought at least a year-long contract, the MEC knew doctors that could cover in the emergency.

"Negotiations were done by the chief of staff in accordance with administration knowing what was going on," he said. "I wasn't involved in direct negotiations but I was involved in analyzing the results of those negotiations."

McLain questioned Blitz about the cost of the new ER doctors and said that in the past she had been told that the hospital couldn't afford them.

"On a long term basis, that would be the case depending on everything else going on in the hospital at any particular time," Blitz said.

Blitz said management's goals initially were to have a lower on-call rate for the ER and that on a short-term basis the price of the four physicians was "not going to kill us."

"Is $400 a day going to break the district?" he asked. "No, But in a 365-day year, it could be a difference that we'd have to analyze."

Blitz said the way the attorneys crafted the agreement gives the administration and the board the opportunity to see how it works and if it doesn't, they have the option to hire different physicians. He said that himself and Chief of Staff, Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei, had met with a group in Los Angeles that is proposing a hybrid model of managing the ER.

"I'm not sure if we can afford it," Blitz said.

McLain argued that Sahlolbei should not have been a part of the negotiations.

"That is what we pay your company for," she told Blitz.

" I share your concern about where this is going and we do have an opportunity to look at this, we have an opportunity to communicate about it, and we have an opportunity to create whatever we want down the road without entering into a long-term contract," Blitz said. "The reason for that is it's an emergency situation, that we had no knowledge of these doctors, we didn't have any history with these doctors, and we were there to basically observe, make sure that the contract goes to the attorneys, to evaluate it based on what was being told to us and, again, this is not the normal condition of how we would operate but these are under emergency conditions and this was a different model than we were used to and again, we dictated in terms of the terms that this would not be long term it would be evaluated."

Board President Trina Sartin said that the community has been extremely dissatisfied with the hospital's emergency room.

"They were dissatisfied with the last group that we're bringing back," McLain argued. "That's why they were removed - because of the complaints that came from the public. So here we are bringing these same people back."

Hudson said that there were people in the local area who travel to Parker, Ariz. to be treated by the new ER doctors who currently work at La Paz Regional.

"We lose an immense amount of the community to Parker who go to see Dr. Strecker, Dr. Kidd and Dr. Runyon," Hudson said.

Board member Sam Burton said that it was 30 days and if the board was unhappy, it could try something else.

"The litmus test is if they are taking advantage of the hours, which they have in the past, we're going to know that pretty quickly in terms of quality and it becomes the responsibility of management, nursing department, the CNO to create an evaluation process that's going to answer your questions cause if we see that we can't get a physician up in the middle of the night cause he or she has pulled too many shifts, that's a sensitive issue here, and it should be, and we need to find out how it's doing so we need a mechanism that's going to evaluate the ER especially under these conditions on a continuation basis and report back to you," Blitz said.

McLain said she wanted the ER contracted out correctly, with RFPs sent out so that the board could evaluate who would be the best fit for Palo Verde Hospital,

"That's the issue here," she said. "We weren't given the opportunity to evaluate any other groups, period. It was all left up to the MEC to make this decision."

Sahlolbei said that McLain never asked for an RFP when Valley was hired.

McLain said she didn't recall that decision but agreed it wasn't done correctly.

"I learned this is the proper way to do things," she said.

Burton told her that Blitz had said five times that this was an emergency situation.

"We need to move forward," he said. "The company that was in there basically is leaving June 1, three days from today.

Calling the circumstances "unusual", Blitz said that he agreed with McLain that this is the hiring of the four doctors was not optimal and that an RFP process was important. He said that this was a temporary stop-gap measure, not a long term solution.

"We need time to evaluate," he said. "If we find it is not going well we need to go through a legal process. This covers our ER and gives us a chance to look at this to figure out where we are. The ER is just too important to this hospital."

Click "play" to hear a tape of the Palo Verde Healthcare District May 29 meeting

Related Stories:
• TIMES EDITORIAL: The truth of what's happening at Palo Verde Hospital is becoming apparent
• ER doc denies negotiating contract with PVH
• LETTER: Transport issues and threats led to departure of ER group
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Sartin, Burton and Hudson need to resign before they lose us our hospital
• On-call pay cuts still leave doctors with above average pay
• Hospital continues to bleed money
• TIMES EDITORIAL: No justice for the residents of Blythe and the valley
• Healthcare District files lawsuit against hospital surgeon, Hossain Sahlolbei
• Sahlolbei no stranger to courtrooms: Hospital Chief of Staff has sued at least 17 people in Riverside Courts since 2000

Related Links:
• Hospital receives 'F' grade from patient safety advocacy group
• Sahlolbei sues hospital in federal court
• Former DA warns board members of potential conflicts

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: @ Blythe take a stand

You read between the lines very well. We must gird our loins and quit taking the backseat to fearful of tyrants. They will prevail only if we balk about standing our ground. Come and just say "NO! We're NOT going to take it anymore!"

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: @ Blythe take a stand

Going to the board meeting is a lost cause...Remember the three board members re newed his contract ...If they vote againest any thing he want's he will see to it the doors close and he then will sue them for breach of contract..He has full control of them....I feel this whole town is being insulted by (deleted) makes me think he feels there is nothing more than trash in Blythe and we dont deserve better than trash for ER doctors..

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013
Article comment by: Blythe, take a stand

I can only imagine what your article said! Blythe People go to board meeting on Wed. The 12th 5 pm.
Do you want a hospital or not!

Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013
Article comment by: Blythe, Take a Stand!

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement. Please keep comments succinct; 300 words or less is optimal. Comments that are excessively verbose, rambling or too long for reasonable review may not be posted.

Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013
Article comment by: agree with @ to board presdent

Yes, that indeed will more than likely be next..Sahlolbei has found a way to bring money to the most broke hospital...He figures the ER will over load when the (deleted) doc.gets here and watch ,it will...(deleted)..All this is doing is defeating the BNETS purpose and principal...(deleted)..I think we should look into protesting or pray for a oklahoma tornado and just wipe the hospital off the foundation...Thats what he and his board members are doing ....

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013
Article comment by: @ To Board President!

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013
Article comment by: To Board President!

Well Madam President!
Why don't you motion to put on the November ballot whether to keep the hospital open? Let the public decide. Peple in Blythe you must stand up for our hospital! These people think they are making these decisions to keep our doors open when all that is happening is that things are getting worse! Two of the "old" ER doctors did not even show up! Whose fault is that? Catalinas? Wed. 5pm COB board room! If don't speak up you deserve what you get!

Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013
Article comment by: wow @just watch

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013
Article comment by: wow wow@wow wow

You are right ...a great deal of people in Blythe will take extra miles to avoid being in the same bulding with him....Any body could go face to face and tell the three frogs that leap every time he says jump the reason they go to parker and else where is because of Sahlolbei ..They would respond with, well everybody has a choice...And continue helping him put the hospital in the grave...Are you three going to be able to face the community when the dirt is shovled over the hospital...

Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013
Article comment by: @ Just Watch

Well just when I thought things could not get worse.....PVH is now bringing a Dr. than runs a marijuana Clinic to work out of our ER! I Wonder who approved that move? Will the City of Blythe have anything to say about this? People come to the meeting Wed. and voice your opinion on having a marijuana clinic owner come to Blythe and work out of our ER/ hospital! Blythe has a big enough problem with drugs and we don't need some Dr. giving out legal perscriptions! Come on Board members! Stand up and put and end to this!

Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013
Article comment by: @ wow wow

They went to Parker to get away from Dr. S.

Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013
Article comment by: wow wow

look at all these comments by the people that drove to parker to see the doctors hudson and sahlolbei got rid of...there are so many here welcmeing them back it will take two weeks to read them...Sandy dig your head out of you know and let the sun shine on it..

Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013
Article comment by: @ just watch

of course it will be on Catalina..You know the honest alway's is at fault...Stay honest God is the only one you have to please....Please never lose your self respect and ware a swollen brown nose like the other three members do...

Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013
Article comment by: Just Watch

Things at PVH are going to continue to get worse and Dr. Sahlolbei, Trina Sartin, Sandra Hudson and Sanuel Burton are going to blame Catalina McClain!
Every Item presented to this Board that has been presented with the blessing of Dr. Sahlolbei or the MEC has been passed, even some items at the objection of Catalina McClain.
They even have cancelled 5 meetings in order to make sure they had their majority Samuel Burton, Sandra Hudson and Trina Sartin!
But watch when things get worse it is going to be Catalina fault even though they got every thing they asked for?

Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

Why was Larry Blitz, acting CEO provided by HFS Consultants the one to present the ER contracts to the Board when he was not involved in the negotiations? Dr. Sahlolbei was the one who negotiated the contracts.
It was obvious from the tapes that he did not have answers. I have this feeling that Larry Blitz is being setup by the MEC!
Time will tell.

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