Grant County residents protested the placing on administrative leave of a longtime provider and voiced other concerns about the hospital’s management company Thursday at the Blue Mountain Hospital District’s board of director’s meeting.
Many of the residents were former patients of family nurse practitioner Shawna Clark. Clark was placed on administrative leave last month for improperly adding something to her own medical records, according to BMH Director of Nursing Debbie Morris via conference call.
Morris said that Clark forgot to have her annual lab work done before her doctor’s appointment in July. Upon realizing she had forgotten, Morris said Clark asked an emergency room provider to order the lab for her, but Clark could not find the order because the ER provider’s computer crashed.
Morris said Clark entered the order for the labs herself under the ER provider's name, which was out of compliance with hospital policy.
“That is the extent of her crime,” Morris said. “But people think she must have stolen drugs or something, the way she has been treated, and the hospital has been so silent about it. ... She’s been represented poorly in the community. They think she (Clark) has done something illegal, a terrible crime, where she may have lost her license. And she hasn’t even had a chance or an opportunity to defend herself.”
Morris said the hospital asked Clark not to disclose why she was let go from the hospital publicly.
“I think it’s terrible that people have to think the worst,” she said. “Because they don’t know.”
Hospital district board chair Amy Kreger said they would listen to the public’s concerns regarding Clark’s departure, but that they could not comment.
Meredith Ediger, a Mt. Vernon resident, said in addition to being concerned about Clark’s departure, she is also worried about not getting an appointment to see the same doctor in a reasonable amount of time.
“It is important to see the same doctor, not to see Joe and Martha and Fred,” she said, “and they don’t have your history, they don’t know about you, and they don’t have time to go read through your records.”
She said the last provider she had at the hospital was Dr. Joseph Bachtold, who relocated to Sisters. Initially, Ediger said, she started seeing another provider but was unable to get back into her regularly.
“She was always gone,” she said. “So, I finally just quit, and I go to Sisters, and I see Dr. Bachtold.”
Ediger said she and the other residents are not the only ones who feel the way they do.
“Time after time after time, I hear complaints about the Strawberry Wilderness Clinic, one complaint after another,” she said. “I don’t even want to begin, where that goes, and it gives the hospital a black eye.”
She said, when she talks to people who show an interest in moving to Grant County, she tells them, “It’s a wonderful place, but if you’re older and have medical issues, you need to think about it before you move here.”
Ediger said at one point most routine medical services could be taken care of in the county, but that is no longer the case, and it is becoming a problem for many in the community.
“People are having to travel, and traveling from Grant County can be an issue,” she said. “Especially in the winter, and I am a big chicken on the road, so somebody’s going to have to take me, and I hope I never have to take my husband.”
Gary Miller, longtime Grant County resident and former hospital board chair, said it is time for the hospital’s board to consider cutting ties with the hospital’s management company HealthtechS3 Management Services.
“The management company has neutered the board,” Miller said. “It is time for the hospital to get back to the way it used to be, instead of sending the money back to Tennessee.”
Miller said he has to “take a little responsibility” for the hiring of the management firm since he was chairman of the board at the time, but he said the company has been in Grant County for a “long time,” since 1990, and that it is time for a change.
Hospital district CEO Derek Daly was on vacation when the Eagle attempted to contact him last week. Hospital district Chief Financial Officer Cam Marlowe said he was not authorized to comment.
Mt. Vernon resident Mary Ellen Brooks said she was on the board for 14 years and told the members that she understands their job is stressful.
“You’ve got a big burden on your shoulders,” she said. “But you were hired on for the job, and you need to get it done to the best of your ability, and I’m going to watch until it’s done.”
Brooks said she would make herself available to help if the board needed.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I have a hard time supporting something that I no longer can believe in.”
Kreger, the board chair, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the other complaints.