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Posted on Feb 9, 2019

QVMC board hears about Samaritan talks

In a long meeting, the five commissioners of the board of the Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2, which runs Quincy Valley Medical Center, went into depth on several important topics.
The commissioners toward the end of the meeting decided that for this year their committee assignments would not change. In the middle there were long discussions about finances, a potential pay raise for employees, and the purchase of digital diagnostic imaging equipment. Starting off the meeting, the Legacy Project, including alignment with Samaritan Healthcare, was the major topic.
Getting the board up to date was Brian Kuest, a commissioner of the Port of Quincy, who was in attendance at the Monday evening meeting, as he often is. Kuest said the port is paying $8,700 for an expert to assess the hospital’s physical structure, and the port has put in a capital request for $300,000 to the Washington Legislature as a follow-up to an earlier feasibility study of QVMC’s facility.
Kuest and QVMC CEO Glenda Bishop were in talks with Samaritan several times recently, and Kuest said Samaritan is focused on offering primary care as a stepping stone to increasing patient numbers. On Jan. 25, Samaritan submitted a “first draft look” at what a pro forma could look like for teaming up with QVMC.
While he said he had a lot of questions about the numbers presented, Kuest said, it was a good start. Samaritan wanted a follow-up on Feb. 4, he said.
“I think they are trying diligently to make it work and come up with a program that makes sense to them, makes sense to us,” Kuest said.

Digital imaging
Moving an agenda item up so an employee who was present could comment on it, the board took up a proposal to purchase digital imaging equipment. Veronica Cruz, QVMC’s manager of diagnostic imaging, said one of the factors to consider in such a move is that Medicare is pushing for a reduction in radiation exposure, imposing financial penalties on facilities that don’t fully switch to digital imaging.
The deal discussed would cost $143,400 financed at 4.5 percent over five years for the imaging equipment.
“This would get both our X-ray room digital as well as the portable,” Bishop said.
Commissioner Randy Zolman gave his opinion that digital imaging is better, producing a more useful image that can be manipulated by practitioners and reducing the need to repeat images.
“You can do a lot of different things with digital that you can’t do with just a regular X-ray,” Zolman said.
Bishop said Commissioner Anthony Gonzalez “kept our feet to the fire on this one” as QVMC has mulled the cost, the pluses and minuses of going to digital imaging for at least a year.
The motion, made by Gonzalez, was approved. He said that QVMC did well waiting and getting a better deal in the end.
After the vote approving the purchase, Bishop told the board, “Thank you, I feel like this is a really big, big step in the right direction.”

A pay increase
Commissioner Don Condit then opened a discussion about the tight finances of the hospital and whether an annual pay bump for employees is possible, mentioning a range of 1.75 to 2.75 percent increases to begin discussion. The levy money coming in this year does cover possible use of it for salaries, he said, but other things to consider were the community’s support for increases and employee retention.
He passed the floor to Zolman, who began talking about a future levy, possibly connecting raises to a levy that would bring tax money to the district in 2020. He opened the topic of how much to ask for in a levy proposal and mentioned $950,000 as a possible number.
Bishop added to the discussion, making a case about competitiveness in the job market and how raises signal that an employer is competitive. A cost of living adjustment to pay in March would be one year since the prior one, she said.
Discussion also touched on the effect of the hikes in the state minimum wage, pressuring all pay levels to rise.
Gonzalez said he is for a pay increase but at what percentage needed to be talked about.
A decision was not made, and the topic will be revisited.

Other matters
In other hospital district business, the board approved the Quality Improvement Report. Gonzalez said it contained a lot of good information, and commissioners had no questions for Kelly Robison, quality director at QVMC, on her report.
The building and grounds have not taken as much of a beating this winter. Gonzalez said “we’ve been very fortunate” with the weather not causing problems with the aging facility.
The group recognized the years of service Verna Teeter gave serving as a director on the Quincy Valley Medical Center Foundation Board, including service as the board’s president. Teeter has stepped out of the role as a foundation director.
The board also passed a motion for a resolution to sell or dispose of surplus equipment, including an ultrasound machine.
The board also passed a motion to give telemedicine privileges for a neurologist from Providence Health & Services.
Bishop gave high praise for the dedication of the managers at QVMC going above and beyond to make the facility successful.
“This is the right team for this time,” she said.
An example she gave was the persistence of Rod Shrader, QVMC’s controller, in getting payment on an amount due the hospital since December 2017 – a large payment, for $487,000, which was just received in the past week.
Gonzalez thanked Bishop and the staff. “I look forward to 2019,” he said.
Zolman chimed in with thanks for Bishop’s work and gave kudos to the whole QVMC team.

By Dave Burgess,