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home : opinions : columns February 6, 2016

6/14/2013 6:00:00 AM
TIMES EDITORIAL: The truth of what's happening at Palo Verde Hospital is becoming apparent

Everyone should really be shaking their heads over the recent events at Palo Verde Hospital.

On May 29, the Palo Verde Healthcare District Board placed on the agenda and then discussed the emergency room contracts for four doctors that were to provide emergency room services.

This came after Valley Emergency Physicians, that had provided the service for the past two years, pulled out citing "transportation" issues. Meeting discussion brought out that the hospital's interim CEO, Larry Blitz, had not negotiated the contracts but rather Board Member Sandy Hudson and the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei worked out the contracts.

Within hours of the story appearing at pvvt.com though, one of the doctors with a contract under discussion, Dr. Matthew Kidd, called and said he was "shocked" and had never negotiated a contract with the hospital.

Adding further confusion to the events, a second doctor, Donald Runyan, never reported for duty.

Then the Times received a letter from Valley Emergency Physicians suggesting its doctors were under peer review by the Palo Verde Hospital medical staff, which Sahlolbei oversees, in retaliation for not using the medical staff's recommended mode of transportation, which past history has noted to be Healthcare District Board President Trina Sartin's Desert Air Ambulance service.

As we have said all along, it seems some people at Palo Verde Hospital continue to look out for their own interests and not those of the greater community.

Here are the facts as we know them:

• In a report by former district attorney, Grover Trask, Sahlolbei has in the past formulated a Transfer and Referral Policy for the hospital emergency room, going to each primary care physician and influencing the physicians to sign off on the preference transportation cards known as 'Primary Care Physician preference cards.' "Through his influence and direction, a large number of patient transfers have been authorized through Desert Air," Trask wrote in his report.

• Citing federal Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), the former board voted to change the medical staff's policy giving the emergency room doctors the authority to determine the fastest mode of transportation for emergency room patients in order to be in compliance with federal law. The policy meant that more transfers would go through helicopters landing outside the doors of the hospital and flying directly to the next hospital rather than taking patients to the airport in an ambulance, putting them on Desert Air's airplane, flying them to another airport and then driving them by ambulance to the hospital.

• Within months of Sartin winning election and becoming president of the board, Caltrans shut down the hospital's helipad that choppers have used since the 1970s without a single accident, because of complaints received from Sartin's domestic and business partner, Jeff Gatchell, who also collects fees for use of the Blythe Airport where helicopters now have to land.

• The former board had issued requests for proposals (RFPs) for an exclusive contract to have a helicopter parked 24/7 outside the hospital's doors to fly patients out in emergencies.

• After Sartin and her board took office, they withdrew the RFP request. Shortly after, the hospital's CNO issued an edict demanding that if the time of arrival for any mode of transportation would be more than five minutes, which would be the case for all helicopters, then the chief of staff had to be notified.

• Doctors who worked for Valley Emergency Physicians and thought helicopter transfers were best, contrary to Sahlolbei and Sartin's wishes, faced potentially career-shattering peer reviews by Sahlolbei and the hospital medical staff.

• Sahlolbei is now doing the negotiations for the new emergency room doctors and Sartin is voting on them.

To a rational person, the facts seem to add up to one conclusion. Unfortunately the people and agencies that can and should fix the problem seem unable to count.

Related Stories:
• Hospital board director Hudson arrested Jan. 13
• Hospital director Hudson arrested
• Palo Verde Hospital cash flow under $1 million
• ER doc denies negotiating contract with PVH
• Hospital rehires old ER doctors
• On-call pay cuts still leave doctors with above average pay
• Hospital continues to bleed money
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Conflicts at Palo Verde Hospital will soon cost someone their life

Related Links:
• 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
• FPPC rules Hudson has conflict and can't vote on issues concerning hospital chief of staff, Sahlolbe

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013
Article comment by: just me

The helicopter landing at the hospital was never an issue until Miss Trina got on the board...Then it all of a sudden was so unsafe....Yes dr S was pushing like a beast for fixed wings......My self I will use blythe ambulance and helicopter need I be transferred....

Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013
Article comment by: @ You need to Tell More

Cal Trans would never have issued the Cease and Desist, if not for Gatchell's persistent complaints. They got backed into a corner by a campaign of complaints and eventually had to do something about it. The helipad had operated for decades without incident. The conflict of interest surrounding this issue smells like a week old catfish. If Trina was really concerned about the safety of the helipad, she could have taken action to fix things without calling the law, don't you think?

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2013
Article comment by: You need to Tell More

When will you report that the heliport was not legal and CalTrans warned the hospital of this many times in the past. Your paper even reported it in 2001 after the hospital was told that the heliport was illegally placed and didn't meet State codes?

You keep harping on this, yet you fail to talk about the fact that the heliport was illegal and that you've previously reported this fact.

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013
Article comment by: just me

I recall reading Sandy's format before elections...She stated she had the ability to work and get the prisons back...umm wonder what has happened...The inmates will get better care at other hospitals any way....As one of the vep doctors said pvh is a toy hospital....

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013
Article comment by: @ The Real Truth

One misconception about where the prisoners go. It is not Coachella Valley. It is Alvarado in San Diego, Brawley and County Hospital. If you could get HealthNet to provide the stats you will see they get better outcomes from those facilities. PVH has caused the prisons here to many problems.

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013
Article comment by: @ the real truth

Your right ,a lot of people do go there for pain meds and don't pay their bill, they are not given any or much care....And there are others that go there with good insurance and conditions that do need attention and they still get the same poor care ....Been there and know that... there's the real truth....Patient care is horrible @PVH because we have to use hand picked doctors that support the chief....

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

Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Article comment by: The Real Truth

Since the Federal Court took over Prison medical care, Prisons don't bring their inmates to Blythe for services, even though they promised the City the would back in the 80's when they were courting us. Yet the business in the Coachella Valley (where the Prison's Chief Doctor lives) has increased 10 fold. The Prison CEO and Chief Doctor refuse to meet with PVH to figure out a way to get the business back, even though both Wardens have publicly stated they want to do business with the Hospital as it is safer and overall cheaper.
Why isn't PVVT looking into this instead of just attacking the Board. Obviously the Board does share blame (the helicopter fiasco and dictator doctor are shameful situations), but why don't you look at the whole picture.
Less patients, means less money. Less money means fewer services.
Then add that revenue is down because people don't pay their bills. Go in the ER between 11pm and 4am and see how many of those people you think will be paying any of their bills. Some do, and some are legitimate, but a lot, and I mean a lot, are just seeking pain medication, while others really need to be in County Mental Health

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: just me

I forgot to mention. I feel there is conflict between the MEC ...As doctor Brooks shamed the chief at the city council meeting held wed night.....awesome it was,,,,,

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: just me

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

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by:

Have any of our decent citizens read any of this? These are specific examples of the hospital's condition, and we, so far as I know just letting it happen! Maybe we should join with Quartzsite, and re-call Trina, Sandy, and Sam. Yes, it would be ugly and contentious, but what the hell is it now? What good is a hospital to you if everybody (unless they lick the boots of you-know-who) is literally AFRAID to go here! Some of us go out of town for safety, but that is not helping those who can't do this. We need to think about those people, to. It would be nice if we could feel safe going to our own hospital.

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Article comment by: just me

Same poor quality care

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013
Article comment by: just me@to just me

Does that mean the P A and the doctor in the ER are both being paid...How can the hospital afford that...I thought they were trying to make money...Hospital is billing the insurance as well as the P A sounds like our insurance will be doubled billed..

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013
Article comment by: Peace Be Still

This is all old news. Fix the problem and move forward...it's easy!

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013
Article comment by: To just me

The last contracts I saw for the ER doctors stated that they got paid $3400 a day. Does not matter if they see you or not they still get $3400 a day!!!!

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013
Article comment by: @ just me

Parker has an Urgent Care, PVH does not. In Parker if you receive your care in Urgent Care your bill will reflect that and you pay less!
PVH does not have Urgent Care, bet your bill will still reflect the unreasonable charges of the ER and most likely the Dr. that did not see you.

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