Hospital candidates discuss assets, needs

Posted 10/26/10

On the ballot are Renee Humphries and incumbent Jim Beukelman, both running for four-year terms on the board, and incumbent Larry Parker, who is running unopposed for a two-year seat.

A former candidate, Sherea LinDae MoAn-Renaud, will appear on …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Hospital candidates discuss assets, needs


Five run write-in campaigns, three official candidates on Nov. 2 ballotElectronic medical records technology and future expansion of hospital facilities were main topics of discussion Thursday during a Powell Hospital District candidate forum.Eight candidates vying for five seats on the board participated in the forum. Of those, three are on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, and five are running write-in campaigns.

On the ballot are Renee Humphries and incumbent Jim Beukelman, both running for four-year terms on the board, and incumbent Larry Parker, who is running unopposed for a two-year seat.

A former candidate, Sherea LinDae MoAn-Renaud, will appear on the ballot, but has withdrawn her name from the race.

Write-in candidates are Henry Yaple, Cathy Marine, Virginia Fish, Jim Carlson and R.J. Kost.

All eight candidates expressed a desire to help Powell Valley Hospital and Powell Valley Healthcare continue to be the strong community resources they are now.

Members of the hospital district board also sit on the Powell Valley Healthcare board.

When citing the organization's strengths and needs, Parker pointed to the new clinic and the increase in surgeries performed at the hospital. He noted that has contributed to the need to expand surgical and emergency room facilities at the hospital.

Yaple said he found no problems in any department during hospitalizations here, and that the hospital compared favorably with others around the country and in other countries as well.

He said it is critical that the hospital have a good relationship with its doctors.

“Doctors can practice without hospitals, but hospitals can't practice without doctors,” he said.

Beukelman said the number of babies born at the hospital speaks to the quality of obstetrical services at the hospital, and the organization's surgeons draw patients to Powell Valley Hospital from outside the area.

He also pointed to the need to expand emergency room and surgical facilities at the hospital.

Carlson said he had spent a great deal of time at this and other medical facilities while his wife, former board member Kay Carlson, was being treated for cancer, and her care at Powell Valley Healthcare was exemplary.

Carlson said he would like to see Powell Valley Hospital provide chemotherapy services, as it once did.

“It sure is good to be close to home when getting therapy,” he said.

Fish cited strengths of the clinic, pediatric services and her positive experiences at the hospital for the past 25 years.

Humphries said the clinic nurses and physicians are caring, empathetic and knowledgeable. She said the hospital needs stronger outpatient surgery services to provide surgery for more patients, eliminating the need for them to travel to another hospital.

Kost said the district's facilities and Powell Valley Healthcare staff “are wonderful. The care can't get any better.” But, he added, the board does need to look seriously at expanding facilities for the emergency room and surgery departments.

Marine said the care her father-in-law received before he died “could not have been better. They not only cared for him; they cared for us, and that is extremely important.

“Space and technology issues need work,” she said, “but the departments are excellent.”

The candidates all agreed that, while necessary, the hardest part of addressing building needs for the emergency room and surgical departments at the hospital is finding a way to pay for those projects.

Each had suggestions on how to do that.

Kost said the first step should be identifying what needs are and what assets are available, then look at other alternatives and possibilities before calling on taxpayers to foot the bill.

“Where can we come up with those resources ... without taxing the community,” he said.

Marine said the board should look at what bonds will be retired in the near future and consider timing any project for when those bonds are retired.

“The bottom line is, this hospital serves this community,” she said. “We pay for that service, but we get a lot more than we pay for.”

Parker noted that the district built the new Powell Valley Medical Clinic without asking for help from taxpayers.

“The reality is ... it will be extremely difficult to (expand the emergency room and surgical departments) without some kind of taxes,” he said.

“There's not that much in reserves.”

Parker noted that hospitals are competitive, and many have failed. The reason Powell Valley Hospital has succeeded, he said, is the board's willingness to expand services, such as hiring a cardiologist and being willing to purchase the equipment he needs to help his patients.

Yaple said he favors looking for other funding before raising taxes. He said his previous work gave him experience in finding and applying for grants and other funding.

Beukelman said the district could look at the possibility of a capital facilities tax to help pay for the building projects.

“When we figure out what we need, we will decide what funding resources are available,” he said.

Carlson said, “Once the community has agreed on what we need, they will be willing to help pay. I've always felt that if the community understood what needs to be done, they will be willing to pay for it.”

Fish said, “Powell has always paid for their facilities by raising money through bonds.”

When needed, the Powell community will come forth with that help again, she said.

In regard to electronic medical record technology, Fish said she's heard that computer systems at the hospital don't talk with each other, and information gets lost.

“That's the No. 1 priority,” she said.

She also advocated for increased security for electronic medical information stored at the hospital.

Humphries said she never has experienced problems with her information at the hospital, but technological issues are important and something the board must be aware of.

“Funding needs to be available for us to be at the forefront,” she said.

Kost said ongoing advancements mean “technology is old when you purchase it. In one year, it's outdated.”

Another challenge is the complexity of the computer system and software required to keep track of medical records at the hospital and clinic.

“As you put all that into one program, it also opens a basket of troubles,” he said.

Kost said he served on a technology committee for the Powell school district and can help guide the board through those issues.

Marine said, “There are programs out there” that also focus on security issues. “As a board, we will need to focus on this cost, (vs.) this cost.” A cheaper program may need to be replaced sooner, while a bond issue may be required to purchase one that's more expensive, she said.

Parker said, “Changes are coming, not only here, but federal changes. These are coming down the line,” he added, with the federal government now accrediting companies to determine which can provide medical records software systems.

Yaple said security of medical records data is “absolutely vital.”

“We also need to think of the medical professionals who will be using that data,” he said. “I want my doctor to have all that information. It is critical.”

Beukelman said, “We're trying to evaluate and find a match” that can provide a software solution that will work in the various settings at Powell Valley Healthcare.

“The cost is the biggest issue,” he said. “It goes all the way from you-get-what-you-pay-for cheap to very expensive.”