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Palo Alto County Hospital Board Discuss Changes at the Hospital

October 26, 2017
Emmetsburg News

Editor's Note: Due to the length of the Palo Alto Hospital Trustees' meeting, the article has been divided into two stories. Part one ran in The Reporter on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

The Palo Alto County Board of Trustees met for a regular meeting. After holding an Open Forum, the Trustees continued with their scheduled minutes.

Dr. Daunyale Sporaa gave the Medical Staff report to the Board of Trustees. As the staff nominated representative, it is Dr. Sporaa's responsibility to report issues and minutes from medical staff meetings. In her report, Dr. Sporaa addressed the recent Palo Alto Health System layoffs.

"The medical staff asked me to pass on their concern about the nursing staff in the clinic. We're down five full-time nurses now," Dr. Sporaa began. "We've had two, three resignations in the last week, and then we had two, what did we have? One with the lay off and I'm not sure really about what happened with the other one, I think we had two technically with the lay off."

" But they're meeting with Chuck [Kelch], I'm not able to attend that meeting, but the rest of the staff is meeting with Chuck on Monday to try to determine which is the hospital's plan for that to achieve good patient- maintain good patient care," Dr. Sporaa stated. "I mean we had a nurse that was gone yesterday for a family emergency [] there's nobody to call, there's nobody to work with a provider for a full day. So there are some concerns about what's going to happen there, but that's kind of unexpected after the layoff to have three additional people leave."

The three nurses did not leave due to the layoffs. They each had their own reasons that were not related to the recent terminations.

Dr. Sporaa also discussed the potential candidates for the open CEO position. There are still candidates to be interviewed at this time, so no final decisions have been made regarding a future CEO for the hospital.

"Dr. Sporaa mentioned the medical staff meeting on Monday that we're going to have this special meeting, next week we'd have our normal medical staff meeting, but we're having a special staff meeting on Monday morning to talk through some clinic issues," Interim Administrator Chuck Kelch explained. "And we have had some unexpected resignations since we did the position eliminations, so trying to gage the impact on that. We were very confident that we could adjust to the impact of those position eliminations through our staffing of the clinic but these resignations have thrown a kink in it."

The Hospital recently began training its employees in "The Language of Caring" program, which teaches hospital personnel empathetic ways to communicate with patients and colleagues.

"We've rolled out our Language of Caring program which I think we've, given everything that's going on, the employees have been pretty supportive, and I think are finding it useful for them," Kelch indicated.

"Just kind of a general question- like you said it affects not only the people that were, positions that were terminated, but also affects the people that are left. And just wondering how that's coming along, just making sure everything is getting completed- those types of things," asked Board President Kris Ausborn.

"We've got some of the immediate stuff handled right away. I don't know, unfortunately, maybe I'm wrong, Sara, but I feel that this transition will be less difficult than the early retirement transition," Kelch answered. He explained that many of the staff that chose early retirement were managers that were difficult to find replacements for.

"Everybody is going to have to do more with less and work harder than they have in the past. That's just the way it goes, but I don't think that's unique to our industry," Kelch continued. "We tried to be as transparent as we could. You know, I started talking to folks that this was a strong possibility back in August. So my sense was, and I certainly heard this directly from the medical staff, 'let's just get on with this. Let's get it done.' You know. So obvious sense of relief."

"I thought your note that you sent out was- I felt good. I mean, the message that you portrayed to the staff was uplifting, I would say. Do you feel that that was well received?" Questioned Board member Terry Naig.

"I had an employee tell me on, what is today? On Monday, that she felt things were better," Kelch answered. "You know people are mourning for a week or two then you have to stop mourning. But she thought things, people were kind of moving forward- thought the communication was good."

The Board of Trustees is planning an Open House to exhibit the ongoing construction at the Hospital. The Board is currently planning for a date of November 14. At this event, ice cream and cobbler will be served from 4 p.m.- 6 p.m. The staff will participate in tours of the new construction.



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