While directing his first meetings with both boards, Bill Patten, the new chief executive officer for Powell Valley Healthcare, advised board members of the need to issue a new request for proposals to update the district’s master facilities plan.
In December 2010, the Powell Hospital District board voted to put out a request for proposals to update the district’s master facilities plan, thereby ensuring the proposals would be on hand when a new chief executive officer came on board to replace former CEO Rod Barton, who left in September 2010.
The update was needed to identify priorities for expanding and updating hospital facilities and to increase space for doctors whose medical offices are increasingly crowded. Those needs have continued to grow since then.
Four firms — A&E Architects of Billings, TSP of Sheridan, CTA Architects of Billings and Davis Partnership Architects/GSG Team — submitted proposals for updating the hospital’s building plan.
The proposals were in hand when the next chief executive officer, Paul Cardwell, stepped into office a year ago. In March 2011, the board voted to accept the proposal submitted by A&E Architects.
But on May 23, Cardwell told the board he was having difficulty getting a response from A&E.
“I never heard from the company that got the bid until 27 days went by. I’m still not getting much,” Cardwell said at the time. “I asked for the contract, and they didn’t give me one ... I think they’re too busy.”
At Cardwell’s request, the board then awarded the job to TSP. Cardwell said TSP had continued to express interest, and, in A&E’s absence, already had sent representatives over to help out with the planning process in the hopes of getting more work as building projects moved forward.
On July 25, Cardwell told the board TSP had completed its review of the facilities plan.
During a telephone interview with the Powell Tribune on July 26, Cardwell repeated, “The building study has been completed.”
He said TSP’s recommendations advised that hospital departments most in need of renovation included the emergency room, operating rooms and obstetrics.
Those also were areas of need identified in the master facility plan completed during Barton’s leadership.
TSP staff also recommended finishing the shelled-in basement and second floor of the new Powell Valley Clinic building, Cardwell said — also recommended previously by Barton.
“(TSP) pretty much indicated, this is the area you should focus on,” Cardwell said. “I think we sort of knew it already, but it’s good to have a different set of eyes look at it and (say), ‘This is the route we should be going.’”
However, when the Tribune asked for a copy of the report from TSP, Cardwell said the company’s recommendations were provided orally; he didn’t have a written report.
Now, it appears that entire report likely was a fabrication. Patten told board members Monday that no work ever was done; in fact, no contract ever was issued to either firm.
Mark Averett, health care project manager and designer for TSP told the Powell Tribune on Feb. 27 that the firm had done no facility planning yet for Powell Valley Healthcare.
“We didn’t want to do anything until the new CEO (Patten) came in,” he said during a phone call. “It doesn’t make any sense to do that without the new administration.”
When provided an account of Cardwell’s report that TSP had finished the job, Averett’s response was an astonished, “Really?”
A previous call in December to A&E indicated representatives of that firm had made multiple attempts to reach Cardwell back in April and May, without success. They were hoping to take up that conversation with Powell Valley Healthcare again once a new CEO was on board.
Powell Hospital District Board President Mark Kitchen said last month that no money was spent on the incomplete planning project.
Given the current situation, complicated by the fact that two companies’ proposals were approved by the board and neither was given a contract or an opportunity to complete the work, Patten and the boards agreed the best thing to do was to start over with new requests for proposals.
Patten said he contacted A&E and TSP, and both were agreeable as well.
The Powell Valley Healthcare board voted to recommend that the Powell Hospital board seek new proposals; during its meeting later that night, the Powell Hospital board agreed and voted to put out a new request for proposals.
“All things considered ... that would make very good sense,” Kitchen said. “I think it would be a great service to taxpayers, (and) I think the companies will appreciate it too, every one of them.”