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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Thoughts and concerns for the CMC board, and community


I had originally intended to present this at the board meeting but not knowing if I would be able to, and the thought of being misquoted, I thought it best to publish this as an opinion.

I want to preface my concerns here with the understanding that I love this community and 97 percent of the compassionate, talented and resourceful employees here at CMC. I was never more proud than when I was able to represent you to our community and the many conferences, meetings and encounters with our state and federal delegates. I loved being on campus visiting with the employees and sharing in the many great things you all do. It was an honor to have been your commissioner for the 11-12 years I served.

I must also admit I wish I could have been a better and stronger commissioner and have stood ground during the turmoil surrounding the board, the medical staff and administration. Because of the threat of having bogus criminal charges brought against me by a board member, for authoring a very positive article in the CMC Communicator; the fear I had of being party to unethical behavior by the board; and having been effectively discharged of my commissioner duties by the board chair, through his banning my presence on campus at CMC to one meeting a month, I felt I had to resign from my position.

Now let’s get on to some very real issues here at CMC. The previous CEO, Mr. Graham, would present monthly at the board meetings the pulse of CMC from the previous month. This included things such as the number of patient falls, which were dramatically reduced; the number of medical errors, which continued to decrease; the staff retention rates, which was the highest we had ever seen; the Press Gainy patient satisfaction scores, which were the highest in the state; along with our financials, which always showed a profit. Many people, both staff and public, thought his monthly report was a bunch of hot air. To me it was music to my ears because it illustrated that CMC was truly the ‘best place for care’, the ‘best place to work’ and could be profitable through good management and dedicated employees. But alas, you, the board, and the medical staff, ran off the greatest administrative team we have ever had.

I would like to hear an honest assessment of how we are doing on these measures today. Are patient falls still at record lows? Have med errors crept back up because they aren’t being followed as closely? The public needs to know these things! The financials are horrible we know.

We cannot continue to lose $300,000 to $500,000 a month and survive. What do we have in reserves now? $3 or $4 million maybe? We can, and probably will, lose that in the next ten months. Then what? Go into registered warrants with the county?? I would bet that HUD, the federal agency with whom we have our debt obligation/mortgage, will be stepping in pretty soon and be demanding a very committed financial and management plan that will need to be followed, otherwise they will put one in place for us. You, the board, know that CMC is obligated to provide HUD with quarterly financials and we must meet certain goals or they will step in with their own plan.

By the way, how are we doing with meeting our debt obligations with HUD? We the public have every right to know, because it IS a public hospital district; OUR hospital district! Are you going to allow our hospital to close because ‘difficult decisions’ need to be made but you won’t make them for fear of reprisal of a few vocal people in the community? Or maybe because you might have to enforce unpopular decisions with some employee contracts? I can easily see HUD redesigning the services we provide here to become profitable again. Whatever services we lose will be because of the board’s decisions, or indecisions.

We still have some gifted, talented and dedicated people here at CMC. But they can’t do it all. I strongly recommend to the board that you look for some outside assistance to get our hospital back on course. There are some great professional medical management companies available that specialize in the exact problems CMC is experiencing. It is the ONLY way you are going to have any control over the future of CMC. If you allow CMC to continue on the path you are now on, HUD WILL be calling the shots here. Not you. I will guarantee the medical staff will not like the decisions, and restructuring, HUD will make. Oh wait! The two guys who said they would leave if administration doesn’t leave said they are going to leave now anyway. Now that shows their dedication and integrity to the community, doesn’t it! There are some good providers wanting to work in our community. The board just needs do the right things and allow them to come in.

To end on a positive note — CMC has some great people working there. I do hear of some real problems from there but the good things I hear coming from employees and patient experiences are many. CMC will survive and we can be the best place for care and the best place to work. And we can even be profitable! It can happen, with a properly focused board and the support of the community. To my friends at CMC … you are the greatest!

Greg Behrens

(former commissioner of Douglas, Grant, Lincoln Okanogan Counties Hospital District 6)

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