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1/22/2013 6:02:00 PM
Fired hospital chief had proposed basing helicopter at hospital prior to dismissal

Marty Bachman


BLYTHE - Two days prior to his dismissal as Palo Verde Hospital CEO, Peter Klune, speaking at the Healthcare District Board's Jan. 16 meeting, called for permanently basing a helicopter at Palo Verde Hospital so that trauma and other emergency room patients could be transferred to other hospitals faster.

The exclusive contract plan Klune proposed would likely cause hardship for Board President Trina Sartin's Desert Air Ambulance service, which currently provides emergency room patients airplane service to out-of-town hospitals. Sartin was one of three votes to fire Klune.

The board had earlier that night tabled the discussion on putting an end to the request for proposals (RFP) for an exclusive contract but it reappeared on the agenda for Tuesday's special board meeting.

Klune said that after the board had approved a transportation policy last November that divided emergency room transports equally between Desert Air and Blythe Ambulance, which provides advanced life support service, he had met resistance from both the hospital's medical staff and providers.

According to a conflict of interest report issued by a former district attorney employed by the previous board's law firm, Best, Best and Krieger, hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei had urged medical staff members to use Desert Air for transport services.

Klune said the move to change the transportation policy was necessary to put the hospital in compliance with state and federal law.

"Enforcement has been difficult at best," Klune told the board. "I will maintain that our goal in enforcing this policy isn't because I like to fight with any of these aforementioned people, it is to maintain compliance with the law and provide the patient the necessary care in the most in the most timely fashion."

Klune said that because of incidences that continue to occur, and the continued challenge to the present policy by members of the medical staff, the prior board sought to implement an exclusive transportation policy and agreement RFP that was intended to address the conflicts and ensure the patient transfer was conducted in "an appropriate manner." He said that he supported the patients right to choose their preferred mode of transportation except when that conflicts with the physicians prescription.

Klune said it gets confusing when clinicians are concerned enough to want to talk to the patient and make sure they understand what the reality is and what the options are for their particular circumstance.

"If, as it appears, this board intends to dismiss or de-authorize the approval to proceed with this request for proposals of the exclusive transportation policy and agreement, we will still have to address this and come up with another remedy," Klune said. "We are out of compliance with federal law today because of the end runs and the lack of compliance with our policy on the incident reports and we have several of them that are documented on an ongoing basis. I feel it is my obligation to point out to this board that this administration has data that indicates that current transport times for critical patents would be reduced significantly by implementation of such an agreement to base a helicopter at Palo Verde Hospital. This would eliminate any scramble; the hospital would have a hospital-based helicopter. It is pretty much a standard at most hospitals."

Klune said that basing a helicopter at the hospital was in the best interests of the patients in the community that require urgent care.

"In an effort to obtain objective information and bring an end to the debate over this issue, I would request that the board allow administration to proceed with this exclusive transportation policy and agreement or, failing that, cause I'm not confident we can get there, appoint a committee of citizens of the community that will work with the administration and formulate a recommendation to the board at the next meeting," Klune said. "This is something that shouldn't be allowed to drift."

At the end of Klune's report, a woman spoke out that the item had been tabled and questioned why he had made the report in light of those circumstances. Sartin said she would speak to the board's legal counsel, Jeff Scott, about the woman's concerns.

"Move on Peter," Sartin told Klune.

Prior to Klune's report, local resident Danny Robinson said he had been flown out once on a helicopter and his girlfriend, who was driving, met him at Eisenhower in Palm Desert.

"I could have ridden with her and got there just as fast," Robinson told the board.

Genie Webber, another Blythe resident, said she had a heart attack in November and received great care at Palo Verde Hospital.

"The emergency room physicians did a beautiful job," she said. "It was 45 minutes from the time they left the pad here to the time they landed on the roof of the desert hospital. I don't know where all this prejudice comes from but I honestly think if this is a contentious issue then there should be a study. Do your own study and make a choice and stop this nonsense and this infighting. If there's a problem lets fix it. But stop all this ugliness."

Related Stories:
• Hospital board dismisses interim-CEO and Chief Nursing Officer
• Hospital attorneys ask court to dismiss Sahlolbei's federal suit
• Emergency transport helicopters to be banned from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: District Attorney Paul Zellberbach owes Blythe more than an apology
• Medical Staff drops lawsuit against hospital board
• Healthcare District Board votes 3-2 to fire CEO Peter Klune
• Drop in patients and surgeries pushes hospital to financial brink

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Mother Goose

I'm sure Danny's girlfriend could drive at 100 mph with one hand, monitor his vital signs and be prepared to save him if he crashed with the other hand.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Eugenia Webber

A little research--In 2011 CEOs of independent hospitals averaged a base income of $482,300 per year and $539,200 after bonus. The median salary was $467,500. With bonuses this increased to $496,400. As reported by Beckers Hospital Review, large hospitals paid the highest salary of $1.4 million the lowest was $741,667. The Palo Verde Hospital CEO has to contend with a dysfunctional and uncooperated MEC that prevents the recruitment of qualified doctors and keeps the staff and environment of the hospital in constant turmoil.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Fight 4 us Peter

Someone please explain to me how having a helicopter at the hospital 24/7 for trauma patients is Peter getting revenge on Trina? This hospital exists to provide us the fastest, most efficient care possible, not to keep Trina in business. Thank you Peter for standing up to the groundless attacks, the personal vendettas and lies, and truly fighting for better patient care. And Danny, next time you're sick, have your girlfriend drive you if you believe that's the fastest way to get to Desert Regional. You're not fooling me.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: just me@wake up people

well you feel Klune is trying to get even.I feel Trina is after nothing more but using her plane for transporting patients keeping her pockets full.Not patient care.I would love to see a helicopter at the hospital 24/7 it's there and patients are up up and away in minutes.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Wake up People

Can't you people see that this is Peters way of attacking Desert Air to get back at Trina because she wants to take his rediculously large paycheck away? Wake up and see what's really going on. This issue has nothing to do with the CEO caring about patient care. It's all about his wallet.

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

I take it nothing else is going on in Blythe worth reporting? Or are we gonna continue to see jabs taken at the health board winners? Kinda reminds me of the New England Patriots. Can't take a loss so the newspaper is used for revenge in some manner. First Mr Evans and now the Hospital. Guarantee if the former staff remained these articles would be written differently. At least make it less noticeable PVVT. I promise you will still top your "unique" views from last year even if they were the same people coming back to post.

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