Administrator’s health crisis prompts board to step up

by nathan oster

South Big Horn County Hospital District board members have agreed to temporarily assume greater responsibilities in day-to-day operations after their longtime administrator, Jackie Claudson, suffered what has been described as a “medical event” Dec. 29 at her home in Basin.

Prohibited by privacy laws from providing medical information about an employee, Jeff Grant, vice chairman of the board, would say only that Claudson is hospitalized in Denver and that there is no timetable for her return.

A family member also declined to comment on Claudson’s condition Monday afternoon.

Grant said the hospital board held an emergency meeting the day after the “medical event” and that board members also met with department heads to discuss both short- and long-term plans on Thursday.

Anticipation has been building for the opening of a new addition to the facility, which will house its hospital rooms, emergency room and service departments. Claudson said in a recent interview that her hope was that the facility would be open by Feb. 1.

Grant said board members are going to assume the role of overseeing the completion of the project. “I know there are concerns that Jackie’s absence might affect that,” he said. “But the board is going to continue her work, and ensure that the final details get taken care of so that it can open shortly.”

Grant said Claudson had made plans about how the move into the new facility would be carried out. Once the final punchlist items are addressed, Grant pledged that there would be open houses to allow the public to see the new addition.

Grant said that while the board has thought long term, its initial focus has been on the “very short term,” which he described as one to three or four weeks out. “Our focus is continuing hospital operations — things like payroll and providing quality patient care — and the board is going to be highly involved in that, working closely with all the department managers.”

“We feel very comfortable that the next few weeks are under control.”

Beyond that, it gets more challenging. Among the options that the board will consider is the hiring of an interim administrator/chief executive officer. Grant said some members of the hospital board are currently out of town and it will reconvene when everyone returns to firm up plans.

Claudson started working at the hospital in 1981 and was there when it closed. When it reopened in the mid 1990s, she took over as administrator.

Grant said staff members, “and particularly the younger ones,” have been “hit hard” by the news of her medical situation. “For a lot of them, she’s like a mother figure,” he said. “The ones who have been there longer are concerned about her of course, but they’re all business, which is good.

“Jackie used to always say that if something happened to her, there are very capable people who are running the departments. They’re good … and we feel like they have it under control. As a board, I think we were all very comfortable after our meeting with them on Thursday.”