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home : opinions : opinions September 15, 2014

2/28/2013 5:00:00 PM
TIMES EDITORIAL: No end in sight to Palo Verde Hospital drama

Like most everyone in town, we're tired of reading and writing about the drama at Palo Verde Hospital.

Unfortunately though, that's what the new board members Trina Sartin and Sandy Hudson brought to the table when they won office through their campaign of fear and hysteria, ranting about $10 million in the bank that's only $5 million now or $3 million, or whatever the pot is down to, according to their whim.

They blamed the shortfall on then-CEO Peter Klune's $477,000 annual salary, outrageous as it was but minimal in comparison with the medical staff's on-call and directorship contracts, which bleed the hospital of $3.2 million a year.

Then they fired Klune, giving him $477,000 just to leave followed by the firing of Finance Director Dennis Rutherford who now has $130,000 coming. If the hospital is as broke as officials keep shouting from the rooftops, where did they dig up $600,000 of taxpayer money?

What Hudson, who was as responsible as anyone for Klune's contract, and Sartin fail to mention when speaking half-truths, is that Klune and Rutherford clearly stated that revenue was down because the hospital wasn't admitting patients and surgeries had dropped from 1,500 in 2010 to 1,200 in 2012 and were on a course of falling to just more than 800 this year.

So whose fault is that, seeing as neither the previous board, that they're blaming for this, nor Klune nor Rutherford admit patients or perform surgeries. And no one on the board or in administration can order the doctors who have privileges at Palo Verde Hospital to admit patients or do surgeries. So when the revenue drops in this way, it's solely the fault of the medical staff.

But Sartin and Hudson justified firing Klune by stating he and his staff had no plan to get the hospital out of financial trouble. But they did have a plan; they were going to contract out surgery to an abundance of quality surgeons capable of performing many kinds of surgeries rather than just the handful the current two surgeons are allowed. They also planned to contract with a helicopter company that would fix the helipad and park a helicopter outside the doors of the hospital 24/7. Those plans would have turned the hospital around and taken the financial control of the hospital out of the hands of the medical staff, which no longer would be able to hold a board or administration hostage.

Until now if the medical staff decides it wants a new board and administration to run the hospital, all it has to do is refer patients to out of town doctors and hospitals. Revenues will drop; medical staff candidates can point fingers at the board members they want to replace as being incompetent financial managers, repeat the message often and dupe the voters into electing their team.

That's what happened in several of the past elections and now it's costing the public dearly. Since Sartin and Hudson took office in December, we have seen a mass exodus of employees, fired or resigning, to the point that no one with experience remains to manage the hospital.

In fact, as far as we can see, without a CEO, Sartin, the board's president, is managing the hospital while at the same time running her Desert Air Ambulance business, which is on the path to make a lot more money now that her domestic and business partner, Jeff Gatchell, has been able to work with Caltrans to shut down the helicopter pad outside the hospital doors.

According to Hudson, who ran on a ticket with Sartin during the latest election, a helicopter landing outside the hospital is not even an issue; it has not been agendized and has not even been talked about. Hudson clearly stated at a Blythe City Council meeting this past Tuesday, that her only concern is keeping the doors to the hospital open and 150 people employed.

We're not buying her reasoning nor that of her friends who continue to find ways to twist the story with tales of planes like the one Sartin's company runs, being faster than helicopters that fly directly between points A and B. If the hospital closes it will be the fault of Hudson, Sartin and the medical staff that supported them.

The closure of the hospital helipad, which has served the community since the 1970s, benefits only Sartin, Gatchell and their Desert Air Ambulance, not the patients of Palo Verde Hospital. The people of this community need Palo Verde Hospital and its helipad. What we don't need are disingenuous people like Sartin, Hudson and Gatchell who talk about patient care and safety while they work behind the scenes to undermine health care in the Palo Verde Valley.

Related Stories:
• TIMES EDITORIAL: It's not all bad news; in fact it's mostly good news
• TIMES EDITORIAL: No justice for the residents of Blythe and the valley
• Healthcare District Board drops suit against Sahlolbei
• Court grants Sahlolbei demurrer and motion to strike
• FPPC rules Hudson has conflict and can't vote on issues concerning hospital chief of staff, Sahlolbei
• City Council hopes to work with hospital on helicopter issue
• Desert Air official fought to halt emergency helicopters from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Conflicts at Palo Verde Hospital will soon cost someone their life
• Emergency transport helicopters to be banned from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: District Attorney Paul Zellberbach owes Blythe more than an apology

Related Links:
• Hospital board dismisses interim-CEO and Chief Nursing Officer
• Former DA warns board members of potential conflicts
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Let's get bids on hospital services and then make a decision

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013
Article comment by: Suck It Up

Haven't heard much of the whining, blaming, excuses of the Doc Troops lately. Gee, that's too bad. When I was a kid, when I did something assinine, my mother was heard to say - repeatedly - "You made your bed, now lie in it." I didn't like that much, because, obviously, it meant that I, and I, alone, had screwed up, so quit crying like a baby since I was the ultimate cause of my situation. Another common expression I remember was: "If you dance, you have the pay the piper." Same result. And then, if you want to go Biblical: "You reap what you sow." Get the messag, Folks? And your beds have not been well made, the piper is now going to collect his due, and your carrots are rotten. Anybody else remember similar instrucions from your parents on this topic?

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Lost In Confusion

What does it take for a small community to come together and stop this madness? How many patients are going to DIE at PVH? In the last month we have had several "Sentinal Events" at the hospital. Our "Good Doctor" is (deleted)! Understand this: PATIENTS ARE YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR PARENTS, YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER OR GRANDMOTHER OR YOU!!!! The State Board of Health has been notified, the Inspector General has been notified, the California State Medical Board has been notified...But, in the end. YOU HAVE THE POWER. ITS YOUR HOSPITAL. Understand this: If you are over 40 yrs old, one morning after your coffee you suddenly feel like someone has hit you in the chest with a SLEDGE HAMMER.
YOU are having a Hear Attack. You now have a little over 1 hour to save your heart muscle from PERMANENT DAMAGE. You can be in the ER and 45 minutes later be landing on the roof of Eisenhower Heart Center where a specialized team will have you prepped and in the operating room within minutes OR you can go by Trina Sartin's fixed wing aircraft and arrive (if you arrive) 2 hours and 20 minutes later. This is a fact. The "Good Doctor" and his cronies ARE IN THIS FOR THE MONEY!!!! They care not for you or your families Health. Get ORGANIZED. Demonstrate. Draw the attention of the Media. Call your congressman. Ask for an investigation. DO SOMETHING!
Or, on that (God forbid), fateful day when your son is injured in a football accident, or your husband falls over at the kitchen table grasping his chest - it will be too late to do anything. Think about that.

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

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Don't give up!

Yes, Blythe, we have a problem. Yes, we have had it ever since The Doc arrived. If we give up, then he and his "people" have won. Those of us who see through their (deleted) have to hang in there and hound them to death, keep them reeling from the various attacks, and pull the same kind of techniques that they are professionals at. We have the moral values on our side, and quitters never win. Be like the wolves. Keep their heads spinning with truth, and attack from all directions. Keep THEM on the defensive rather than roll over and take it. Their defense is always the same. Blame it on somebody else. Remind them of all the "promises" they made, all the "caring" they have, etc. and demonstrate to the voters who will be voting in the re-call that these people are NOT who they say they are.

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Mel SoCal

@markmywords - i was there that summer. i was the one that made the census that old CFO would read-out during the meetings.

i counted each of those patients, and let me tell you, the low census was miraculously "fixed" when their demands were met..

it's not going to change. nothing will change at palo.

@shadows - yes, she bought stuff for the hospital!! she bought all new furniture for the lobby and a nice expensive frame for her picture to hang in the newly refurnished lobby..

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

The Bible teaches that we should divide the bread and fish to feed the many. At PVH the board majority focuses on dividing the bread and fishes to feed the few. Follow the money!

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: From Someone Who Cares

@Tammy Jansen


I have never heard of such fee of $1000.00 Medical Staff Privileges. Was it written into the contract with the hospital or was the contract with some other group. Unbelievable.

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: Tammy Jansen

To answer the "back door contract" offer - no, I am personally unaware of any one of the 4 remaining CRNAs whom Dr. Sahlolbei had congenial working relationships with having been approached. However, the fact is that our group contracted for 24/7 coverage, including ER consults, for a total of $42,560 a month, without any reimbursement for lodging, travel, or malpractice insurance, but we were still required to pay $1000 a year for medical staff privileges and were not allowed to eat free meals in the cafeteria because we were not "Doctors" - even though the premise of that privilege is because a doctor or surgeon is sometimes at the hospital for 12-15 hours straight and the free meals were intended to keep up our energy. Now, I did find out that Dr. Barth was contracted for $50,000 a month, plus $3000 for being the "Director" of anesthesia, which our Chief CRNA - John Keenan did not receive although he did an extraordinary amount of administrative anesthesia responsibilities. The financial viability of that arrangement was confusing to me.

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: @T Jansen

That's just the problem - NOBODY will take hime! Even doctors over in Palm Desert have heard about him and his antics, his lawsuits, his other "stuff". One of my doctors has said doctors should just be doctors and stay OUT of politics. Of course, The Doc says he doesn't want to get into politics, but the Times makes him do it! Ain't that a crock??? IF he's the perfect doctor he seems to think he is, I would think he would not HAVE to give money to churches, rent from board members and all that non-medical stuff. We nee more REAL professionall doctors here, but that kind is not allowed in.

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

Tanny Jansen: Thank you for your balanced and professional assessment of the ongoing problem at PVH. Our community would be so much better off if we had more professionals like you.

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ T Jansen

Thanks for re-iterating what this community has been saying for many years - the good dr and ego is the only common denominator at pvh when a crisis occurs. We've had different ceo, cfo, board members, other dr's, staff, er room, etc, - the only thing that remains thru all the turnover is (deleted). He is the mainstay of the crisis that perpetually occur at pvh (at least 15 years). Again - thanx to the ignorant voters who voted in the 2 people who can keep him here - and believe me there are only 2 or 3 who want him here. We were so close to FINALLY BEING DONE WITH THE ARROGANCE when the twins were voted in to save his skin. The residents who have been keeping up with pvh drama - KNOW what the problem is. I really wish somebody would hire this Dr and take him off our hands. Please Dr - go somewhere where your skills are wanted because it is not in Blythe.

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

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: just me@trina


Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: From Someone Who Cares

@Tammy Jansen

Thanks for your input. There has been many professionals reporting the same issue. By any chance did your group turn down any back door contracts?

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @@ Trina

Hey, now THAT'S a great idea! I totally agree with you! Cat would do a great job! Better take the advice, kiddo! It's just gonna get worse. Before you bought into this, you KNEW there would be a conflict of interest, and you went greedily on. Wait until a decent lawyer who is greedy, too, takes a big chunk out of your (deleted). Whoopie!!

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @ @ Trina

A lot of us agree with you. Remember that the twins either are indebted to 007 or have a business to protect. No way can they resign.

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @ Trina

I hear that if there is no administration the president of the board is to take over. If so, I do hear your running the operation. In all fairness to the community you should step aside because of the unfinshed conflict of interest you have going with the hospital via the doctors to your transportation business. I highly recommend to let the vice president Catalina McLain stand in.

Regards, Justice!

If anyone one agrees with me please repost.

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