Board set to meet following doctors’ request

Three Rivers’ new budget plan would net $422,349

— Three Rivers Hospital commissioners will meet at noon, Monday for the first time since the contentious Dec. 16 board meeting, when the hospital’s physicians presented a letter calling for Chief Executive Officer Bud Hufnagel’s immediate resignation.

Hufnagel and the commissioners came under fire from local doctors and hospital staff who objected to some proposed budget cuts, such as eliminating the labor and delivery department.

Dr. James Lamberton read a list of requests, which was signed by all the physicians.

Hufnagel did not resign, but the board voted unanimously to keep obstetrics as the cornerstone of the hospital’s services.

However, the department will be reviewed every six months.

Lamberton said Hufnagel’s “leadership style has created a sense of uneasiness and at times literal fear within the staff of the hospital.”

In addition to the requested resignation, the letter asked the hospital to change its direction by Jan. 1 to positive planning as opposed to cutting; set an emergency meeting of the medical staff strategic planning committee by Jan. 21; share full disclosure of all finances used in decision-making; stop eliminating services until a new strategic plan is in place; call in an outside auditor to review finances by Jan. 15; and develop a community advisory committee including representation from the Hispanic community.

“We feel that the hospital is definitely in peril due to the lack of positive leadership,” he said. “We do not believe that the current administration is acting on our behalf.”

In response to the letter, the commissioners approved one of two options presented to cut costs in 2014, which cuts about 16 positions – about 10 of which have already been vacated through attrition – and sells Healthbeat Fitness Center and Advantage Durable Medical Equipment.

Those services may not be going away, however – Advantage manager Bennie Polvos is in talks with the hospital to purchase the two businesses.

The proposal also originally called for discontinuing the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department since Hufnagel said the hospital wouldn’t be able to bill for it anymore under a new law, but Commissioner Mike Pruett suggested keeping the department and reviewing it in 2014.

If Three Rivers discontinues the program, Hufnagel said Wenatchee-based Confluence Health may agree to fund it while keeping it housed in Brewster.

The new plan will also reduce hours for respiratory therapy to Monday through Friday and end after-hours surgeries other than emergency Cesarean sections.

Under the new budget plan, the hospital estimates a net income of $422,349 next year.

On the agenda for Monday, the commissioners will welcome a new member.

Cherryl Thomas will be sworn in at the meeting, which will be at the Hillcrest administration building, 415 Hospital Way.

Thomas ran unopposed for the position of outgoing board Chairman Dan Webster.

He will move on to serve on the revived and renamed Three Rivers Hospital Foundation board of directors.

The foundation operates independently of Three Rivers Hospital.

Other agenda items include assigning board members to committees and honoring Webster’s retirement.

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