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Liaison board dissolves

by Christy Chalmers

The Carson-Tahoe Hospital Board has formally accepted the resignations of the Minden Medical Center Liaison Board, and Dr. Joseph Heflin will begin directing the center’s urgent care facility this weekend.

The hospital trustees accepted the resignations Thursday, a month after the liaison board members voted to disband. The action followed the hospital’s decision to lease operation of the Minden Medical Center urgent care facility to Physicians Select Management, a local group of doctors.

Heflin, who is affiliated with the group, replaces Dr. Mark Brune.

Liaison board members said they’ve always focused on health care in advising the hospital board about Douglas residents’ needs, with profitability as a secondary concern, and they sensed profits would be a primary concern for the new group when it takes over Oct. 1.

Hospital trustee Pete Livermore said he doesn’t understand how the group’s mission excluded financial concerns.

“I don’t know how you could have construed that both of those were not part of what we were doing,” he said. “There’s no way we could have continued to operate on a tremendous loss. I always assumed that the liaison board, that was their goal, not only to give great health care to Douglas County, but to make sure it was financially stable.”

Profit-loss statements provided by the hospital show C-TH lost more than $500,000 over the past three years. The loss exceeded $447,000 as of May 31 in the 1999 fiscal year. The loss for FY 1998 topped $64,00 and $39,000 in FY 1997.

The hospital opened Minden Medical Center in 1998. Previously, the hospital operated the Carson Valley Health Center in Gardnerville. The clinic was established in 1981, along with the liaison board.

The decision to privatize the medical center will affect 14 employees. Deena McKenzie, director of ambulatory care for C-TH, told the trustees that 10 workers have taken different jobs with the hospital, two have decided to retire and two are undecided.

Livermore said he isn’t angry over the liaison board’s decision, but emphasized finances will have to be a focus if another advisory board is established.

“I feel comfortable that as a trustee, we did all we could do,” he said. “I think there was a missing link that the liaison board had down there, and that was providing the service but making sure there’s enough financial there to deliver it. (A future board) is going to have to understand that’s going to be part of their aspect and what their responsibility will be.”

Allen Biaggi, chairman of the outgoing board, said he’s willing to serve on a new advisory board if one is created. He also noted the liaison board was never given any authority to address financial concerns, though members recognized them.

“I think this is a transition,” he said. “It’s time to transition away from a liaison board concerned with just the health care issues, and recognize the new entity and the privatization of the facility.”

Hospital board chairwoman Jo Saulisberry said the board will discuss possible successors for the liaison board at its next meeting. Trustees Tom Metcalf and Caleb Mills said community interest in the center appears to be strong. Mills said he’s heard some Douglas residents resent the hospital’s actions with Minden Medical Center.

“I would hope those folks would join with us,” said Trustee Paul Saucedo. “We want to work with the folks in Douglas County. If you’re out there, please come forward.”