The South Big Horn County Hospital District released a question-and-answer statement on their Facebook page late last week. This comes after more than 150 people expressed concerns to the hospital at their March 22 board meeting.
“We hope this clarifies the questions and concerns expressed by some of our patients and community members,” said CEO John Adlesich.
At the meeting, it was disclosed to attendees that the Drug Enforcement Administration and Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation are conducting a joint-investigation at the hospital.
The question and answer release, which was completed by hospital administration and the board of trustees, covers a variety of different issues and topics.
“SBHCHD will make information public as soon as permitted by state and federal regulations. Many of these regulations prohibit the hospital from making some information available publicly, but the district will certainly provide information as it becomes available and as allowed by authorities,” the release stated.
It also stated that staff and providers have been notified of the ongoing investigation.
When questioned if it was good practice to self-investigate before contacting authorities, the hospital stated, ”it is routine and best practices for hospitals to review their own policies, procedures and operations to ensure they are meeting state and federal regulations. This self-inspection ensures patients receive the best care and the hospital follows applicable state and federal regulations.”
The hospital stated that many of the recent changes were to make the facility compliant with state and federal regulations, but did not comment on which specific regulations the hospital was violating.
They did state, however, that the Powell Valley Healthcare pharmacy, who is currently managing the pharmacy at the hospital, is not the focus of the DEA investigation.
The concerned citizens who attended the meeting were also curious as to why the public was not made aware of the changes or the investigation before now.
“SBHCHD was committed to ensuring the privacy of our staff and providers and maintaining the integrity of this ongoing investigation. As a result, we were unable to comment earlier about our concerns and the current investigation,” the hospital stated.
Provider Concerns Addressed
During the hospital board meeting last month, many who spoke and addressed the board were concerned about the resignations of Dr. Demar “Dusty” Hill and physician assistant Heather Sanders.
Some asked the board whether the providers left on their own accord or were forced out.
“Recent provider resignations were voluntary and not the result of SBHCHD or its board pushing them out. Unfortunately, due to state and federal regulations, as well as to protect the privacy of these individuals, we are unable to comment on any specifics regarding their resignations,” the hospital stated. The statement added that the district is not pushing out their providers to make more money.
Some also questioned whether the providers were being given the presumption of innocence, and the hospital responded by repeating that the resignations were voluntary.
Another asked that, if Dr. Hill cared about the hospital and the community, why would he resign?
The hospital did not comment on this question.
When asked if the hospital would reinstate the providers that resigned, the district stated, “SBHCHD is unable to comment on individual personnel issues, but is focused on recruiting new physicians willing to practice and relocate to South Big Horn County.”
The hospital anticipates new physicians will start within four to five months. In the meantime, SBHCHD will be hiring a physician to cover Dr. Hill’s schedule in the clinic and hospital. Those being recruited will be permanent physicians and nurses for the facility.
Dedication to Patient Care
At the board meeting last month, some who addressed the board were concerned about patient care. In their statement online, the district stated they have a financial aid program set up to help patients who are unable to pay their bills. If a patient is unwilling to apply for financial assistance or does not qualify and is still unwilling to pay their bill after 120 days, their bills will be sent to collection. Additionally, patients terminated from the clinic would be unable to receive outpatient services.
“Due to federal regulations, terminated patients are always able to receive care at our Emergency Room. This policy ensures that all patients are treated equally and patients able to pay do not unfairly receive services for free, paid for by other patients,” the release stated.
Patients were also concerned about where to turn for care after losing their primary care provider. One patient at the board meeting stated that she was told to find another doctor when she called the clinic to set up an appointment.
“We regret this occurred, but want all patients to know that our providers are accepting new patients,” the hospital stated.
They also added that providers at the clinic are available to schedule appointments, review current medications and discuss future treatment plans.
The clinic was also accepting same day appointments at the time of the release.
Ambulance Issue Resolved
The issue of what ambulance service the hospital uses was addressed at the meeting last month. Many were concerned that waiting on an ambulance service like Powell’s puts patient safety in jeopardy and causes taxpayer money to go out of Big Horn County.
The hospital, in their written response, stated that they use the local Atwood Ambulance service for nearly all transports.
“However, there are some situations where medically necessary services are unavailable from Atwood’s (for example, if a patient were to require a ventilator for transportation and was stable enough to be transported by ground) and a SBHCHD provider would call West Park Hospital or Powell Valley Healthcare (both of which can provide the medically necessary service(s)),” they stated.
They also added that they have recently used ACLS training and will continue to utilize them in the future when appropriate.
“All SBHCHD providers, locum and physician, ensure patients are transported by the most medically appropriate means. If a patient requires a level of care not provided by Atwood’s Ambulance (e.g. requiring a ventilator), they will call Powell Valley Healthcare or West Park Hospital. As previously mentioned, SBHCHD and Atwood’s Ambulance have an improved working relationship and we utilize them for most of our transports,” the release stated.