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MCMC board under fire

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SLAYTON — Concerned citizens and community members poured into the Murray County High School auditorium Tuesday night for an open community meeting with the Murray County Medical Center (MCMC) Board of Directors and others.

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Mike Rich, who moderated the meeting, is a resident of Marshall and the founder of Southwest Marketing Advisory Center. He is a professor at Southwest Minnesota State and has been on the board of directors of Marshall’s hospital.

“I was approached to be moderator for this about a week ago, and I want to make clear that I’m neutral in this process, and that I have no axe to grind, and I have nothing to prove,” Rich said at the meeting opened.

Rich and the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center will be compiling issues and inquiries addressed at the meeting by asking people to email in questions. The company then plans to send out questionnaires to the public in order to pinpoint precise concerns pertaining to the hospital. Once all the information is gathered, it plans to publicize the results for the MCMC board.

Early in Tuesday’s meeting, a financial presentation was given that included 2012 audit of the hospital’s financial status at the time. Renee Logan, chief financial officer of MCMC, stated during the presentation that the hospital had $17.2 million in revenue in 2012, which was up from 2008.

Logan added that the audit for 2013 has not been released; it was confirmed later that it would be available in two weeks.

“The hospital is not funded by common tax dollars; we are self-supporting,” Logan said.

Another topic during the presentation was the management agreement Sanford Health has with MCMC.

Logan stated that Sanford does six major jobs for the hospital — group purchasing, education, corporate compliance, general counsel on legal matters, various business operations, and access to business operations and resources. Logan also said that all decisions are made at the board level.

After Logan spoke, citizens were invited to voice any concerns and ask questions regarding the hospital. One by one, community members stepped up to do so. Many inquiries pertaining to the financial agreement between former CEO Meldon Snow as well as employee concerns and the possibility of dropping Sanford Health and bringing in Avera Medical Center.

“We need to discontinue the management agreement with Sanford and bring Avera in,” said Cal Wurpts, Slayton. “We also need to look for a new CEO and develop a positive work environment.”

Rich, who also serves on an Avera board, responded.

“If people think that recouping four staff members who have moved on from MCMC to Avera will fix everything, then you better research that,” he said. “Avera won’t step into the breach of this issue. They’re not going to come in and pick up the spoils of war.”

Stacy Slettum, a former nurse practitioner at MCMC, confronted the board on billing issues and the financial problems that the hospital is facing.

“I think it’s silly to look at the 2012 audit because all of the problems stem from 2013 to the present,” she said. “In the last 14 months, it’s evident that the hospital is losing money.

“We also have a fiscal issue of not billing people,” she continued. “There are multiple tests that patients have had, and people have not been billed for it. Why haven’t more billing services been provided?”

Logan said she wouldn’t comment on how the hospital handles that matter.

As for the financial agreement with Snow, details show the hospital’s ex-CEO was given $380,000, which covers insurance for Snow and his spouse for 24 months or until comparable coverage is provided to Snow by a subsequent employer. Also in the agreement was $27,550 for Snow’s partial pension loss, as well as $4,000 for attorney’s fees.

“My question to the board is how do we justify the compensation package that was given to Mr. Snow after he entered into a contract when he was already involved in litigation?” one citizen asked. “I would like to have every one of your individual opinions.”

Commissioner Gerald Magnus was the first to respond.

“My position on the matter was I didn’t like the agreement, and I didn’t vote for the agreement, but I will support my board after they vote,” he said.

“We met in session and we talked in great length with our lawyers, and we took their advice,” Commissioner James Jens said. “It was the most in-depth conversation we had as a board. We came to this conclusion because we thought it would be best for the hospital.”

“I kind of got thrown into this thing; I didn’t really have a choice,” added Commissioner David Thiner. “I didn’t agree with the terms, but if we didn’t agree to them, we could have faced another lawsuit.”

Ken Johanson, Slayton, reiterated a common concern at the meeting — the signing of Snow to a seven-year contract when he was already involved in a lawsuit.

“When I ran for this position, I had no idea that this (problems) was going on in the hospital,” Thiner said. “My goal when I ran was to look out for Fulda, and when I got elected — and, to be honest, I had no idea I was on the hospital board — the first meeting I went to, I was scared. It was probably my fault that I didn’t know what I was getting into. When we voted for extending Mel’s contract, I looked at the past and what he’d done.”

It was also announced during the meeting that the board has five potential candidates for a new CEO of MCMC. There will be a public interview of one of the candidates at 10 a.m. today at the Murray County Commissioner Room.

The public is encouraged to send their concerns about this issue to the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center at Michael.rich@smsu.edu or smac@smsu.edu.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

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Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
(507) 376-7322
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