Hospital sees “many possibilities” for its next steps.
The saga at Southern Inyo Hospital (SIH) continues. The hospital has been struggling to pay the bills, to keep the lights on, and its doors open. The hospital was forced to close its Emergency Room on Dec. 3 due to a lack of funds. Hospital CEO Lee Barron resigned amidst the troubles on Monday, Dec. 14. In the press release from the Southern Inyo healthcare district, there’s no reason given as to why she quit. Nurse Practitioner Donna McAuley from the hospital’s Rural Health Clinic has been appointed acting CEO.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel, as the hospital received $350,000 in property and tobacco tax revenue from Inyo County Tuesday. There is now enough money to pay employees, some of whom had not been paid regularly in weeks. The hospital plans on catching up with back pay just in time for Christmas.
Drew Wickman, SIH board member, hospital point man and negotiator, said collaborations with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) have taken a turn. RRH’s CEO Jim Suver cannot be the CEO for SIH, nor can he serve on the SIH Advisory Board, because it is a non-profit public hospital, and RRH is a private, for-profit hospital. Wickman explained that a court ruling prevents an administrator from running a private hospital and a public hospital at the same time. The negotiations of exactly how RRH will assist SIH are still being drawn, but the two plan on working together in the future.
Symon’s Ambulance said that SIH emergency room patients have gone to both RRH and Northern Inyo Hospital, depending on the situation and distance. A trauma patient in Olancha would go to RRH, while a patient in Independence would be transferred to Northern Inyo Hospital (NIH). Symons added that it has doubled its staff to handle extra patients from southern Inyo and the Tonopah area after that hospital closed in August.
NIH is stepping up to the plate and its interim CEO, Dr. Kevin Flanigan, will serve as advisor to SIH’s acting CEO. Wickman said the collaboration with NIH is not yet finalized but “the good will is there.”
The next step will be to fill the CEO, Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Financial Officer positions. Wickman added that there are “many possibilities” for the hospital’s next steps after that.