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Sanford expected to stay at MCMC

SLAYTON — The Murray County Medical Center (MCMC) Hospital board discussed the possibility of ending the hospital’s management agreement with Sanford Health and switching to Avera Medical Clinic during a special strategic meeting Wednesday at the Murray County Government Center.

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While no official action was taken on the matter, board members, including Interim CEO John Osse, felt it would be in the best interest of the hospital to stay with Sanford.

The board members were not the only ones. During the meeting, Osse read aloud a letter from the hospital’s five medical staff members expressing their concerns if the hospital chooses to part with Sanford.

The letter brought up various topics such as operational changes, how much it would cost the hospital to switch to Avera, and the ripple effects of what that change could cause.

The letter stated:

“The financial cost by simply changing management from Sanford to Avera would be exorbitant,” Osse read. “Our laboratory, for example, would have to change their references, which requires the purchasing of Avera controls and recalibrating our analyzers.

“Our radiology department would have to switch to a synchronicity digital radiology system to align with Avera systems, and likely use their radiologists. Avera would require us to align with their emergency medical record systems, which would cost millions of dollars. Who is going to pay for these operational changes?”

When Pipestone County Hospital switched to Avera, nurses had to reapply for their jobs, the letter continued. Switching to Avera at MCMC would likely produce a similar outcome.

The letter stated that ending ties with Sanford is a “ludicrous” idea because it would be financially devastating to MCMC.

“Don’t think for a moment that if MCMC were to become managed by Avera patients would be referred back to us for surgical consults, gene studies or admissions. These patients would be referred to Marshall or Sioux Falls,” the letter concluded.

Osse confirmed that the letter was signed by the five active members of the medical staff, four physicians and a physician assistant.

Osse also clarified that this was the first time he read the document, but he had heard a letter like this was in the works.

“From my perspective, I think board needs to decide if they’re going to accommodate members of the community who are asking for the contract to be severed with Sanford, or if they’re going to accommodate our physicians, who are working here right now supporting the hospital,” Osse said.

“Right now, if I’m asked to make a recommendation… So far I haven’t seen a breach of contract with Sanford,” Osse continued. “From an administrative position, my recommendation is to stay where you’re at.”

Commissioner Dave Thiner shared his view on ending the contract with Sanford.

“Talk to people in Worthington, or St. James that sold their hospital,” Thiner said. “Not everybody is going to be happy.”

So far, the contract with Sanford Health remains, but if the board chooses to part ways with Sanford, it must give a 180-day formal written notice.

Osse continued with the meeting by listing some of the hospital’s goals and the changes that have been made in the short three weeks he has been Interim CEO.

“We’ve implemented exit interviews, and I expect to sign the contract this week regarding employee surveys,” he said. “The newsletter, which has probably been the single most popular decision I’ve made so far, has been very successful because the staff just wants to know what’s going on.”

Osse also said that he would be looking at staffing, stating there will not be any mass layoffs but possible reassignments.

The topic of restructuring the board was also discussed.

The board is looking to dialogue with other county hospital boards to see how they are structured. However, should MCMC choose to restructure, the process could take up to a year, said Robert Moline, MCMC board chairman.

“We need to find a board that knows what it’s doing and knows how to run a hospital,” said Thiner.

Along with restructuring the board, the search for a permanent CEO will begin shortly.

“We need to look at if we want to stay with a county hospital employee or do we want to have the management affiliate take care of the CEO?” Moline said.

Randy Anderson, vice president of Sanford Health Network, informed the board that finding a replacement CEO is an extensive process, but he believes it can be accomplished in nine months.

The debate on whether or not the hospital should looking into finding a new CEO through a private company or using the Sanford Health management system waged on.

“You can go through a recruitment firm because you know they specialize in this,” Anderson said. “If you want them to do all the background checks and detail work, they can do that, but there’s a fee ... which could cost you up to $80,000.”

Sanford also has a search process that involves collecting résumés and completing background checks. It also has a fee, but Anderson said the cost will not be near the $80,000 mark.

Anderson stated that he would give the board a formal write up of the process that Sanford would do so the board can look it over, as well as give them contact information for independent firms to go through as well.

“I think if the CEO is a county hospital employee, they will be looking at our best interests first, but if they were employed by Sanford, their future thoughts are not what ours may be,” said Commissioner Gerald Magnus.

The MCMC board did not make a decision about which process to go with when looking for a new CEO, but board members recognize this decision needs to happen fast.

The meeting concluded with Moline deciding that two commissioners will meet with MCMC employees on May 22 for their monthly staff meeting to address staff questions and concerns.

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

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. 
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