PMC Board Candidates Discuss Dollars and Sense at Public Forum


Candidates Hudson, Wyatt, Yoder

While all six PMC board of director candidates recognized the need for some form of expansion at the hospital to accommodate an outpatient rehabilitation facility, most stated their dissatisfaction with a lack of specifics on the proposed renovations and expansion to warrant the $5million bond issue which goes before the voters on May 8. Several felt the cost for the 13,000 square foot facility could be pared back, while some stated that a cost-benefit ratio should have been incorporated to the plans. “I didn’t see the transparency I expected in the financial figures,” said CPA Ronnie Farmer, one of the six candidates present for a public forum held Wednesday, April 17 at the Lamar Cultural Events Center.   

Candidates Branes, Broyles and Farmer

The forum, sponsored by Voices of Southeast Colorado, allowed for a Q & A session from the public for all six candidates, two of whom will be elected to the board by a majority vote on May 8. The question of financing for the $5 million bond for the proposed Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility will also be on the ballot, which should be mailed out to hospital district voters starting April 20. The six candidates, Andy Wyatt, Julie Branes, Ronnie Farmer, Vincent Yoder, Wayne Hudson and Diane Broyles have background in finances, such as Wyatt or Farmer, or a medically related background such as Dr. Hudson who’s employed by High Plains Community Health Center. Yoder had been employed for ten years at Prowers Medical Center, Broyles is a nurse, Wyatt is the Prowers County assessor, Branes works with her husband, a dentist, and said she has the time to devote to hospital issues as a board member. 

Apart from their background, the candidate’s responses through the evening addressed the need to establish a form of medical and economic detente with High Plains Community Health Center, one of the main concerns expressed from the audience. Jay Brooke, executive director of HPCHC, asked the candidates if they, as board members, would support what he claimed was PMC’s attempt to “squeeze out” other health care providers in the area and create a medical monopoly in the region. He asked, “Since 2010 Prowers Medical Center has been implementing a strategic plan directed to have a virtual monopoly on area health care services by 2015, versus and instead of partnering and collaborating with other health care providers in the area. If elected to the board, do you accept continuation of this plan?” 

Ron Farmer didn’t acknowledge the claim of a strategic plan in his response, but did state that future national health care policies are dictating changes in the medical fields as a whole, expressing what he saw as a need for establishing health care partnerships. “PMC has to use High Plains,” he said.  “Everybody has got to get together with our limited number of dollars and resources and advance. If everybody goes off and does their own thing, we’re going to die on the vine.” Andy Wyatt commented that although he had heard for years, talk of a rift between High Plains and the hospital, he could never get a straight answer as to the cause. Wyatt felt that patients should not have to travel out of the area to seek medical attention, using tax payer’s money for gas payments, when medical facilities are available in town. “One of the biggest issues I hear is why doesn’t PMC and High Plains get along,” he replied, adding, that the medical provider boards have got to work together to get along.  

Yoder said he’d observed first hand, frictions between both groups, while as a former PMC employee. He said there should be some form of cooperation between the two where there are duplicated patient services. “We should be able to work as a team to solve those problems, rather than forcing patients outside the area where they start developing dedicated doctors in Pueblo or the Springs. That takes revenue out of the pockets of both groups,” he added.  Dr. Hudson said Prowers Medical Center should not be trying to recruit family physicians or nurse practitioners. “It is not a hospital’s position to be providing primary care.  No where in America should a hospital be providing general practitioner care,’ he told the crowd. Hudson explained that the three High Plains physicians bring all their patients to PMC.  He said there’s no medical friction between the medical providers at both facilities, but there is a need for more specialists to come here. He said our problem is in the hierarchy of the hospital.

Dr. Barry Portner, Chief of Staff at Prowers Medical Center, spoke about recent efforts to establish a level of cooperation between the two facilites, PMC and HPCHC, but said there has to be a level of recognized compromise to reach some goals.  Portner said he, along with Drs. Hudson and Abbott have gotten together to find ways to curtail patient leakage to La Junta.  He said he’s working with High Plains to provide his obstetric services to the center, but added that a matter of which facility would handle a $25 fee has caused a snag in negotiations.  He believed that the two CEO’s could find a compromise solution, but also hoped that the new board would be able to facilitate  a greater degree of cooperation for the future.

Each candidate’s viewpoint regarding the use of QHR, Quorum Health Services, the managing corporation for Prowers Medical Center, was also explored. It was acknowledged in general that QHR greatly aided in the financial turnaround of the hospital over the past few years, from a $1million deficit, to about a $5 million surplus, but candidates responded that there may be varying degrees of the need at the hospital to continue to contract with the national organization.  The two candidates who receive the most votes will be added to the board of directors, replacing Gene Cruikshank and Joe Spitz who are not running for re-election.  The other current board members are Chairman Jan Hall, Marge Campbell and Candy Ruedeman.  The $5 million bond issue for the proposed Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility will also be on the ballot.  PMC Chief Executive Officer, James Fairchild announced his resignation to the board last month, stating his last day at the hospital would be May 23.  The new board, working with QHR, will select a new CEO for the hospital. 

On a related community health note, current Prowers Medical Center board member, Candy Ruedeman told the gathering that a community-wide, health-needs assessment meeting would be held at the Prowers County Annex next Tuesday, April 24, from 3pm to 4:30pm. The public would have a chance to express their opinions on the current state of local medical services and what they believe is needed for future medical provisions.

By Russ Baldwin

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