Mammoth Hospital CEO Tom Parker was gracious enough to spend some time with me this week talking about the state of affairs at the health district and what opportunities and challenges may lie ahead.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Parker began by saying we know enough about the downsides of the pandemic and its impacts, but what are the positives? What are the silver linings?
1. The rise of telemedicine. The pandemic, said Parker, “drove operationally things we haven’t pushed hard [before].” One of those things was telemedicine, which Parker said, until now, has been horribly reimbursed by insurers. But the pandemic has changed that, and payers are seeing the benefits. “And we do not anticipate a scale back in that payment reform,” said Parker.
“The future has been accelerated by five years,” he added, and he anticipates that remote monitoring of patients will also accelerate. “Now that we’ve demonstrated demand, tech companies will invest in systems to help us do that [practice remote medicine].”
2. The pandemic has deepened partnerships and relationships, particularly with Mono County Public Health. The hospital recently partnered with Health and Human Services on a community needs assessment.
3. Policy development around infectious disease. In the first three months, the hospital’s Incident Management Team developed forty policies and met three hours per day, seven days per week. Three critical areas addressed involved increasing surge capacity, limiting the hospital as a transmission vector and working with other agencies to flatten the curve.
In regard to the transmission vector piece, Parker referenced Wuhan, where at the outset, people would get sick and come into the hospital, which had the unintended effect of making the place one turns to for safety into the most dangerous place in town. So … that certainly served as a cautionary tale.
4. Outcome for care delivery. “When we look back, I think we’re going to look back with a feeling of accomplishment.”
In terms of financial impact, Parker said the hospital district has weathered Covid pretty well. At the outset, elective procedures were curtailed but it ultimately just pushed revenues out a quarter as those procedures still got done – they were simply done in June versus March.
Parker said clinic visits are just starting to return to previous levels, and certainly, ER visits have been down, but Parker says he is not worried.
“Pain causes us to take action,” he says. You can’t put off the doctor forever.
And with the stay-at-home order lifted, a key patient population, visitors, will return in broader numbers.
Despite the pandemic, Psrker noted that Mammoth Hospital’s credit rating has remained stable. Last month, Standard and Poors maintained the District’s A- with a positive outlook rating.
Some areas of improvement: Behavioral Health and Dental. Parker’s clearly a big believer in the numbers. In both these areas, Mammoth had lagged behind the state average in terms of providers per capita.
So Parker went out and changed that.
In Behavioral Health, Mammoth had 1 provider for every 520 residents as opposed to the state average of 1 for every 310.
“We’ve doubled the number of providers over the past year,” said Parker.
Similarly, with dental, Mammoth has half the providers per capita, so Parker says the hospital is in the process of building out its number of chairs from three to six and then will recruit the staff to meet the new capacity.
The Hospital has also hired its first Internist, Dr. Yaris, in several years (if ever – Parker’s not sure if they’ve had one before) and is also recruiting for a Neurologist.
Finally, we asked Parker if there might ever be a merger (or at least a greater collaboration) of Northern Inyo Hospital District and Southern Mono Hospital District.
“We’ve communicated a lot more [during Covid] than we’ve had before, and Kelli Davis (NIHD Interim CEO) and I speak regularly and we’ve worked together to share resources, but … there is still ongoing litigation [in regard to Mammoth’s Orthopedic clinic located Bishop – a case Mammoth won the first time around], and it’s hard to partner with someone who keeps filing lawsuits.”
A few odds and ends … I received a call this evening from Maya Jamal, who complained about the same issue Dan McConnell writes about in his letter which appears on page four.
Jamal said the Town’s website literally features multiple photos of people parked in the same spot.
She praised the MLPD for generally doing a great job, but in this instance … she thinks someone may have eaten an extra bowl of Wheaties that morning before going out to write tickets.
She didn’t actually mention Wheaties, but … you get the drift.
In regard to the crowds last week, Page has the following report:
With Mammoth Mountain destined to be packed last weekend, many locals opted to head for tried-and-true June Mountain to enjoy the new snow and get away from the crowds.
Except for the fact that June decided to stop letting guests into the parking lot and up the hill within an hour of opening; ans no one was allowed to even enter the lot on foot, even those who were there to get a refund for their day passes.
For Mary Pierson, the day was supposed to be spent making tracks and kicking up powder. At least that’s what she thought it would be when she left her home in the Peterson Tract in June Lake just before 9 a.m. When she was told she wouldn’t be able to get into the lot with her car, she turned around, parked at home, and walked to the entrance with her snowboard in hand. But she was told she couldn’t enter the property at all. A request to speak with management was met with the same response.
When she wouldn’t relent and eventually walked past the gate to speak to someone at the lower ticket office, Pierson, 67, had security called on her by June employees.
She was told by mountain representatives that “it’s unprecedented times”,that it’s a pandemic, and the lot is full.
“I sat on on the Zoom call with Mark Brownlie [in October] for an hour where he told us that the IKON pass holders were the foundation of Mammoth and he was gonna protect us,” Pierson told The Sheet.
“People hadn’t made a decision about whether or not they were going to buy the Ikon base,” she said, ”but it was clearly a sales pitch to make sure that those of us who were on the edge of getting a June Mountain pass or Ikon pass would pull the trigger.”
Pierson felt that the promise Brownlie made to passholders back in October had not been followed through upon.
“It’s a crazy year but it’s just more of the bad will that Mammoth and now Alterra have a bad habit of engendering because they don’t walk the talk that they give you,” Pierson said.
*The tradeoff, of course, is that if you go on a Monday, no one is there
Another thing people are upset about: vaccine line skippers. I’ve heard plenty of secondhand stories about the connected and entitled figuring out ways to finagle a shot. My two cents: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
So … if you’re weak and self-aggrandizing and pathetic and you really need to jump the line, jump the line.
But word gets out about things like that. And people will remember your lack of fortitude.
It does seem as if the Health Department has tightened its process of late.
For all the doubters who said that Bishop Airport would never be able to execute and get certified in a relatively quick amount of time, they forgot one basic and very important principle: Unlike Mammoth, where all human progress goes to die, other places know how to get things done.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) is expected to be released later this month for public review.
The new runway and taxiway projects have been completed.
The airport will Part-139 compliant and can handle aircraft up to 126’ in length. A 737 Max 8, fyi, is 112’ long.
A new $12.6 million passenger terminal is in process. The expected local match on that is $1.1 million.
Finally, the best part of the week, illustrating how too much exposure to government corrupts absolutely.
Mammoth Public Works Director Haislip Hayes made a presentation at Council where he said the Town had a “need to consolidate our mobility planning documents.” And he asked for $100,000 in seed money so he could hire additional contract staff/consultant.
This isn’t the funny part. This is the sad, scary, it’s a pandemic, are you kidding me part.
The funny part came when Council took him seriously.
Salcido: There’s no hesitation that this is a priority.
But then riotously, from Sauser, “I support replacing fourteen documents with one document.”
This is the same guy who used to rail about creating one more planning document which would inevitably gather dust on a shelf. Is the argument that we replace fourteen docs with one doc so we can clear a lot of shelf space?
And then, the prospect of hiring another person and spending $100,000 when you have special consultant Grady Dutton already on staff (salary) twiddling his thumbs? Egregious.