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11/28/2012 3:32:00 PM
Medical staff awarded temporary restraining order to halt contracting of surgical services

Marty Bachman

BLYTHE - The medical staff at Palo Verde Hospital has been awarded a temporary restraining order against Palo Verde Healthcare District Board of Directors President Jim Carney and board members Catalina McClain, Beatrice "Quitty" Pinon and Rosalie Carlton, preventing them from voting to contract out surgical services in Carney and Carlton's final board meeting, Nov. 28.

The court complaint, filed Monday, sought injunctive and declaratory relief from the above named board members, charging unfair competition, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Board Member Sam Burton was not named in the complaint but Palo Verde Hospital and its CEO, Peter Klune, were. Both Carney and Carlton were voted off the board in November but their term doesn't expire until after the Nov. 28 meeting.

Dean J. Smith of Taylor Blessey, LLP, attorney for the medical staff, in an email to the Times, said, "This morning Judge Harold Hopp in Department 2G in Indio granted the Medical's Staff's request and issued a TRO prohibiting the PVHCDB from entering into an exclusive contract for surgical services and for patient transport. An hearing to determine if a preliminary injunction will be issued has been set for 12/13/12. This action will prevent any such exclusive contract from being signed during the remaining two days of the current lame duck PVHCDB's term."

Smith said earlier that the call for a restraining order was to prevent the board from voting Wednesday to contract out surgical services, which is currently under the purview of surgeon Hossain Sahlolbei. Sahlolbei, a frequent critic of the four board members named in the complaint, was not expected to be employed by the contracted agency if the board had been allowed to vote on it.

In his complaint, Smith outlined the medical staff's version of events between their members and the boards and managers that have served since 2000, particularly citing instances where the boards have made attempts to attack and remove Sahlolbei.

Smith also recounted the medical staff's alleged aversion to exclusive contracts.

"In April, 2010, after 20 years, the Blythe City Council voted 4-1 to deny a lucrative exclusive contract to Blythe Ambulance for BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulance transfer," the complaint contends. "...The Medical Staff strongly supported ending this exclusive contract. Members of the Medical Staff, including Dr. Sahlolbei and Dr. Kenneth Lucero spoke publicly in support of an end to the exclusive contract. Mr. Carney worked vigorously in support of extending this exclusive contract..."

The complaint then accuses Carney of advocating to appoint his "close friend", Pinon, who works for Blythe Ambulance, to a board seat, a move which failed.

"Since then, all private hospital related communication between Mr. Carney and Dr. Sahlolbei in particular got worse," the complaint states.

Pinon was elected to the board months after she failed to be appointed.

The complaint then contends that the board changed the hospital's transfer policy, which according to the suit, favored Desert Air, a competitor of Pinon's employer, Blythe Ambulance. Desert Air is owned by Trina Sartin, who was elected to the Healthcare District Board last November. The new policy requires the hospital's emergency room doctors to call on Desert Air and Blythe Ambulance on alternating days. The medical staff's argument is that, as primary care physicians, they know their patients and the system best. The hospital claims it was forced by federal laws to change the policy and that the new agreement provides faster service times for emergency room patients that need to be transferred to larger hospitals.

The complaint finally alleges that because the hospital has a Medi-Cal contract with the Department of Health Services under the Medi-Cal Selective Provider Contracting Program, the California Welfare & Institutions Code prohibits them from entering into exclusive contracts for the services the medical staff provides.

"If the District Board is permitted to enter into this illegal contract the terms may make it impossible to cancel and it will irreparably damage the already fragile finances of the hospital and eventually patient care for years to come," the complaint reads.

Hospital officials said they had no comment at this time.

Related Stories:
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Medical staff needs to take responsibility for failing grade
• Hospital receives 'F' grade from patient safety advocacy group
• COLUMN: Hospital again

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: just me@should of been there

You want change? So do I. I think a good start would be getting rid of the (deleted) Mec.Every body is so turned on to the most (deleted) doctors on the face of this earth.I believe Blythe will get a change alright for the worst.Wait watch and listen.

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

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: you know what a majority is?

Unfortunately many of the people in the readers comment section do not understand majority rule. When one faction gets 2700 and 2100 votes and the others get 1200 and 1000 that means that the ones with the larger vote totals win by an overwhelming majority. It should be obvious to Jim Carney and the rest of the board that the MAJORITY of the people in this community do not subscribe to the way that they are handling things at the hospital. The only one that seemed to understand that at the meeting on Wednesday night was Sam Burton who repeatedly tried to table items of discussion till the next meeting. (deleted) If not for the actions and participation in the meeting by many members of the community, the ceo's contract would have been extended and more power would have been placed in his hands.e power! (deleted). Rest the board better wake up and start working to better the hospital instead of trying to get revenge against those they do not like. Hospital is on the fast track to being in a slew of lawsuits and broke!

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement. Personal attacks are not tolerated, and are a direct violation of these Terms of Use.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: Frustrated In Blythe

The doctors win. They basically get the hospital for themselves and their personal financial gain while the community pays the bill. Their supporters will get the contracts, donations, and/or at least preferential treatment in return. But this is the way it's been going for years all over the country. Rich get richer. Poor get poorer. Middle class gets hammered in taxes, fees, inflation, and ever growing healthcare costs as insurance covers less and less. But the doctors will game the system to their advantage. They can be just as greedy and ruthless as anyone else, but with a lot more education and charm. There was a great article in Washington post about man who had heart attack and what it took to get him home from out of state. He spent 20 hours in the first hospital that stabilized him. That hospital sent bill directly to collection agency to collect. It was $23,000, for 20 hour stay. The family was lucky and had insurance covered most but what if you didn't have insurance. What would that do to a family already in crisis. It's all a big money grab. Nothing more. Disgraceful. And that is the current state of our healthcare system.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: Should have been there

What part of losing the election does Carney not understand? WE WANT CHANGE. No overpaid and underworked CEO's, no underhanded dealings.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: just me@just

You may already know how to check out our doctor's here.if not go to the medical board of California .You can get information on their credentials.Very interesting.I am trying to find the appropriate way4 to let the state board know what we citizens are up against.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: @ just me

Blythe will continue to suffer. Only hope is for the feds or state to step in with criminal charges! I hope they take down ALL that are guilty including enablers.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: just me

This is totally disgusting.I feel if we had new doctors come in we may keep our health issues here ..As it is now I don't have faith or trust in any one doctor.The two I did feel were the most honest and trustworthy blew it this last election..So I now am looking to travel out of town for a doctor..If there should be a time I would need to be hospitalized I will refuse being addmitted here.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

I guess only doctors can enter into an illegal contract. And it's OK for them, what a joke. Close the hospital and open an emergency clinic. Get rid of all and start new.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Clarification A

Please be aware that "medical staff" is only the doctors and possibly not all of them. None of the nurses or other "staff" of the hospital is involved in this filing that anyone knows of.
Looks like the battle lines for the hospital revenues are being drawn.
Hope there is a hospital left after the battle is over. With everything else going on, probably not.

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