[Editor's Note: This is part 1 of the GRMC Board meeting on Jan. 25, 2019.]
By Mary Alice Murphy
During the safety moment at the beginning of the Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 25, 2019, Chief Executive Officer Taffy Arias talked about a situation that had happened.
"We had an individual call three times with threats to burn down the hospital," Arias said. "We take these seriously. That type of behavior is not tolerated. We will press charges. We must take care of our patients. Anyone who threatens us will suffer the consequences. The person was found, and we have pressed charges."
Chief Financial Officer Richard Stokes gave a heads up to the board members that a long item in the Finance Committee report would consist of 30-day extensions to physician contracts, so they would have time to review the changes that had been made.
Board Chairman Mike Morones noted that it did not change the agenda.
Stokes clarified saying the items will ask to extend the contracts through Feb. 28.
During recognitions, Marshal Lopez was given a certificate of appreciation for her 40 years of service to Gila Regional. She serves now in the operating room. "I've appreciated my 40 years, working with the community, with the physicians and helping patients."
David Altamirano was recognized for 15 years of service in dietary, and Evelyn Jimenez-Melendrez was recognized for 15 years of service in the Wellness Center.
Arias introduced the new hospital Chief of Staff, Dr. Brian Robinson.
During public input, Linda Pafford said she was back to speak about Gila Regional and its role in behavioral health. "I'm behind the curve, because changes are going on. I am recognizing that (Detention Center Administrator) Mike Carillo reported that things are much smoother for inmates being brought into the emergency room. Officers are getting respect. There still seem to be places, especially in addiction and dementia, where they are not getting the care they need. It lists on the website all the things you offer. When we got our IPRA request back, it showed only 264 admissions to behavioral health here. The request, which was difficult to get back, showed no recognition of communication between Gila Regional and Tu Casa and HMS. I know there has been. Perhaps the communication needs to be formalized so we know about what's going on. We need to know they are being taken care of and that the hospital is offering detox. I believe communication shows you are embracing the Stepping Up program."
Arias said she would like to include a report to the trustees on behavioral health.
Rev. Jane Foraker-Thompson said she came to visit a Guatemalan man and his son in the hospital in November. "I was turned away. I had never been turned away before. I checked in at the nurse's station and was stopped by a nurse and a Border Patrolman. I heard from Mr. Holguin that if I wanted to offer spiritual services, I would have to apply. I've never been turned away from pastoral service at a hospital before. I found it shocking and disturbing."
A man spoke and said he had left off a letter. "I don't want to be seen as obstructive. I want due process for the removal process. I have a request with the attorneys for the patient visitation policy. My opinion is that a patient has the right to make the decision on who visits him. I believe a child was an unaccompanied minor in the custody of the Border Patrol was an abandoned child. You must call law enforcement in that case. These people have the rights to visitation and information. If it is an unaccompanied minor, you usually call CYFD."
Chris DeBolt said she thought the hospital was in uncharted territory with the influx of immigrants seeking medical help. "I want to make these comments of my heartfelt appreciation for the leadership and compassion that Gila Regional has shown. Convening the health care providers around this health care crisis is wonderful and not unexpected. I ask always what would compel a woman with young children to escape or undertake the 2,000-mile journey, except horror. I also thank you for addressing this crisis with the intersection of crime and behavioral health. I'm very proud of you. Thank you for your efforts with Stepping Up. The openness and responsibility you take is because you know they do not belong in jail. You're showing the mantle of leadership. I'm more than gratified that we are working to improve and fix it. Thank you for being real human beings."
Gail Stamler said she is a nurse mid-wife. "I ask that you offer bone density tests when we tell women to go for mammograms. Silver Health Care had bone density tests, but why should you send them there for bone density tests? The radiologist explained to me the 3-D mammograms for dense breast tissue. We need to do it. It will protect patients and us from liability." She said she is seeing dismal turnover in the nursing staff. Retaining and recruiting is more than just wages. "The community within the hospital needs to accommodate personal challenges. We know we will appreciate the 10 nurses from the Philippines, but that will be 10 jobs not offered to Grant County residents. I would like to see you increase the emotional, social and financial support to nurses."
Trustee Dr. Victor Nwachuku, during board input, said the trustees have to take note of what everyone has said in public input. "On the topic of the patients brought in by Border Patrol, the Border Patrol officers have been very pleasant and supportive. The hospital has been very responsive to the immigrants. Are we being paid?" [He was assured that the hospital was being paid at the Medicare rate.] The initial response has done an incredible job. There is still work to be done. We need to look at the issue of minors. Other issues include psychiatric needs. Inpatient services has done a good job. Outpatient services has work to be done." He noted that the county, the hospital and HMS have issues with drugs in pregnant women.
Trustee Dr. Tseing Sherpa said she was in the regional consortium meeting on the immigrant situation. "We had a really great meeting. We are in unchartered territory. January is our busiest month. The ER is doing a good job with the immigrants and our residents. We will continue to treat the immigrants with respect. We will continue to learn about the legalities."
Trustee Ed Wilmot said he tries to attend the County Commission meetings. "I commend Taffy and Richard for their reports. I get good feedback on them. We need to reach out to the new commissioners. It's a very valuable service you are doing to communicate with them. When I overhear a conversation on the hospital, I introduce myself as a trustee. The continuous thread I hear is that this hospital has always treated them and their family very well."
"From periphery, it really gives me a different perspective," Robinson said. "I look forward to working with you."
Trustee Tony Trujillo announced that Grant County Day would take place on Wednesday, Jan. 29. "I forwarded the document for the things we need for the hospital. There are 20 health care bills so far. There are a lot of bad bills and very few good ones. Please pay attention, with the new administration and the drastic change in legislators. They could greatly hurt us. I'm there full-time. I can direct you to the right place."
Trustee Jeannie Miller said she attended the consortium meeting and was pleased to see it happen. She said she would include more in her Quality Improvement Committee meeting report.
Trustee Joel Schram said he has heard from bank customers about the border issue. "I'm glad to see we are addressing the medical issues. We will continue to provide equal treatment whether our patients are citizens of the U.S. or another country."
Morones said he spoke along with Arias and Stokes at the county meeting. "Tax season is getting busy, so I may need help with attending the meetings. I think the commissioners appreciate hearing from the Board of Trustees. I will be at the Legislature to help give our point of view, along with Taffy and Richard, on why we need extra funding."
The next article will include the updates and reports from leadership and committees.