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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: Thursday, June 6, 2013
Article comment by: @ board president

Trina how come you didn't tell Blitz how disatisfied the comunnity is with you and the other two members...@Sandy not everbody goes to parker to see the Doctors you hepled get rid of and now are suggesting they are just great...Truth is Parker is a far better hospital with much more and better doctors there..And you Burton follow the pack of wolfs and that makes you honorable mention ..I can tell you all excatly what kind of doctors are in the ER now .DR.Runyon is the only one deserving respect...The other three pvvt .won't post it...Stay step for step with them Catalina we the community love you and your strength and honesty...Mr.Blitz do you feel you have to stay on the good side of the great but not great doctor and board come on be the man you are being paid to be and do your JOB.

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ dr. barth

Why were you given a new contract and then shortly thereafter you quit? The rumor is that you were suspended. If it is true then could you tell us all why?

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ listen to your self

sounds like you are one of the good docs.buddy and you only have seen one side of him...Why go to the meeting? if you are asking questions or practicing your freedom of speech you are excused..Oh nothing negitive can be said about the good ole boy Trina will see to it you take your seat and give him the privelge of ranting and raven ...So I stay out of trouble and don't go becauseI defend myself...I take no abuse of any kind from any one no matter who they are or what there title is...Catalina is the only board member with a good strong spine...@Chico yes if closing the doors will get rid of Sahlolbei shut them now bringing thes old doc..back has created even more of I problem ...I have had their service and not happy at all...The outing doctors are good doctors...

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ listen to yourselves

I disagree PVVT reported almost word for word what was said! Listen to the recording provided here on this article! If you do not believe this copy go get yours from the Hospital website.
I guess the CEO, Sahlolbie, Hudson and Sartin could say the recording of the Board meeting is lying?

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: listen to yourselves

Instead of sitting behind a computer and making acussations against people at the hospital and on the board why don't you all go to a meeting and do it face to face. If you all truly do care about the hospital then get all your facts and information together, go to the board and present it to the public. Get the old ER docs to tell us why they got Peer Reviews done on them, tell the CEO that he is a liar and that he is not fulfilling his obligations. Just doing it here will not accomplish anything. Lay it all on the table and let the chips fall where they may. The constant fighting, bickering and name calling is getting old and only turns more people away from the hospital. Personally I would love to see a forum at the college where all parties could have their chance to speak, ask questions, and debate the facts for however long it takes and get all this done with. Tired of it! Most in this town anymore see all this and just see BLAH BLAH BLAH. All sides involved have lost credibility here including the PVVT!

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: PVH's Conflict

The memo concludes that Sahlolbei appears to be an "economic interest" to Hudson either as a source of income, by protecting her husband's personal financial interest from incurring legal liability or providing some other personal benefit valued at $500 or more in a calendar year in exchange for his use of the residence owned by Hudson's spouse. Quitty abstained and Hudson should also abstain when it comes to any thing to do with her buddy Dr S - it is soooo obvious she is in cohoots with her favorite Doc and so is Sartin. Time for Dr S to go and hopefully the rest of the sheep will go with him. Please Dr S - we are uninviting you from our community - with friends like you - who needs enemies?

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Chico's Response

What is wrong with McLain-and her supporters-what would you rather do-shut the ER down while the hospital hunts for new doctors and contracts are negotiated and then they have to get credentialed and so on and so on-in the meantime the community does not have an ER nor does the hospital make any money-An ER closure for any length of time would close our hospital. There was no time to give her "the opportunity to evaluate any groups". Something had to be done quickly-maybe she should be thankful that the problem was solved as quickly as it was and someone had the foresight to get in contact with the current ER doctors. Nobody is saying this is a permanent solution but at least for now it is a solution-she is a board member-what did she do to solve the problem? Not everyone has the means to go out of town for medical care. As for Dr. Sahlolbei not being involved in the negotiations..he is the CHIEF OF STAFF-isn't he supposed to be involved with anything regarding the Medical Staff. (deleted)

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: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Needing our prayers

Catalina McLain needs our thanks and our prayers. Not to mention she needs two or three people who have the guts she has to do what is right. I could not go through the "stuff" Trina allows The Doctor puts her through. He is flat-out OUT OF ORDER 99% of the time, yet the president lets him say anything he chooses to whenever and however many times he chooses to! The stuff THIS board majority is doing is pure crap. (Sorry. that was a four-letter word, but it was appropriate.)

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ Dr Barth

Thank you so much for proving you are not scared of the big bad wolf and you dont have to brown nose to stay on the good side of him...All of the nurses that have worked with you have nothing but positive things to say about you...In the end you and your wife will consider not working at pvh a great blessing..Lol becarefull tho he may sue you because he is not white like you are...He is not only a royal blank at hospital meetings ..He is that way every where he goes...

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ trying to twist things around again.

You are so right ..Catalina was not a board member in 2010 When the whole ER staff was let go...I had started a law suit when Peter Klune called me and promised me that Strecker Kidd and Runyunn I cant spell the name of the other dr that was let go as well .Aug.16th 2010 Klune did keep his word and I dropped the suit...This $$ is all on Hudson Sahlolbei.Only a few of us can see the light ...I bet they don't recall the memo that was posted in the Er giving Trina the first right to refusal ..But maybe the copy of the memo will help them to recall it...Sahlolbei needs more than a peer riview...

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Brad C Barth MD

I applaud “trying to twist things around again” for the research and statement of fact. Dr. Sahlolbei directed lots of accusations and hostility at Catalina at the 5/29 meeting, and I encourage PVVT readers to listen to the tapes and ask themselves if that represents the sort of “professionalism” the community wants in hospital leadership. It seems like anyone who questions or disagrees with Dr. Sahlolbei gets accused of racism. I think Catalina is absolutely right to scrutinize the contract process. Before anyone tries to vilify Valley Emergency Physicians for pulling out the way they did, just consider the type of “professionalism” they had to deal with from the MEC. Dr. Sahlolbei can be heard at the meeting bragging about all the effort and time he’s put in to keep the ER open, but in my opinion that is reminiscent of the arsonist that shows up to help the firemen fight the fire. My understanding is that VEP gave the hospital 30 day notice in March, not April as stated by Mr. Blitz at the meeting, but they ended up staying until the hospital could secure replacements.

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Citizen

Looks like Peer Review has been used selectively to promote the agenda of the MEC!
Time to cut ALL On-Call and DIrectorships.
Bleed the MEC not PVH and make the MEC get rid of the REAL PROBLEM!

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @@ listen to your self

My previous post has a error in it that I need to correct ...It should read stay strong Catalina like David and defeat the giants..

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: @ listen to your self

The people that were and still are going to Parker was not so they could be seen by the old doctors..You ,can be seen by other doctors, good doctors thats why I go there and to stay as far away from Sahlolbei as I can...I didn't like Strecker or Kidd when they were here.And nothing has changed..I do respect dr.Runyon ..

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Brad C Barth MD

I spoke to some of the ER physicians with Valley Emergency Physicians, and there seemed to be a consensus that Valley doctors were being unfairly targeted for peer review and being suspended by the MEC, not because of real patient safety/quality of care issues, but because they resisted efforts by the MEC to channel transfer business to Desert Air. Every doctor I talked to mentioned Dr. Sahlolbei as the biggest problem they had with PVH. I don’t know how Larry Blitz would know whether or not peer review was “for real legitimate reasons,” as I believe he is an accountant by training. My own impression is that the peer review process at PVH is irretrievably broken and hopelessly partisan. And it seems like it was just yesterday, though I’m sure it was a couple of years ago, that Dr. Sahlolbei was telling me all the reasons why they had to get rid of Kidd, Strecker, and Runyon. It didn’t make any sense to me at the time because I like those guys, but I guess it just shows you how things can change.

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