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Losing money and docs, hospital faces more challenges


Last updated 6/16/2014 at 3:13pm

With two key health care providers working on a very limited basis and revenues limited as a result, Coulee Medical Center is losing money and faces yet another challenge: a physician will leave for a year, starting in January.

Dr. Jacob Chaffee announced last week that following the battles with the former administration last year, he needs some time off.

“The past six months here at Coulee Medical Center have been difficult and I have come to the point that I need to take a sabbatical,” he wrote in CMC’s email newsletter.  

“My family and I will be taking an opportunity to spend a year abroad in Australia beginning in January of 2015.”

The announcement of the temporary loss of a main revenue supplier comes as losses mount. CMC has lost $780,000 through April, the last month for which financial statements are available, Chief Executive Officer Debbie Bigelow told hospital district commissioners Monday night.

Some $451,000 of the loss hit in April, offset a little by a cut of $64,000 from budgeted expenses.

Registered Nurse Practitioner Dawn Lovelace works at CMC one day a week and ARNP Wendy Hughes is focusing on her practice at the district’s Coulee City clinic.

The good news, she said, is that cuts made in administration will save the hospital as much as $472,000 through the end of 2014.

Gone are the former CEO, chief operating officer, marketing manager and chief financial officer. Bigelow said the hospital is not currently looking to fill most of those positions. And at $113,000 annually, her salary is a $92,000 savings over that of Scott Graham’s reported $205,000.

Chief of Staff Dr. Andrew Castrodale said the coming sabbatical for Chaffee places even more importance on the formation last month of a recruiting team to bring in more physicians. By its own marketing study done prior to building the new facility in 2010, the hospital was to bring on board two more physicians by 2014.

“It is my hope that, while I am away, CMC will successfully establish a sustainable and healthy model of physician staffing,” Chaffee wrote.   

“Upon my return, I look forward to again bringing energy and passion to helping CMC become what it has always had the potential to be - the best rural hospital on the planet.”

He said he would work to “ensure a seamless transition for patients under my care.”

Castrodale said several residents he works with in Spokane may be interested in rural medicine, but none will be available before mid-2015, leaving a half-year gap after Chaffee’s departure.

Commission President Jerry Kennedy said he was pleased after attending a medical staff meeting last week.

“I was really encouraged by discussion there,” he said. “We have a lot to offer as a hospital and as a team. … We have a lot of amazing people resources in this hospital, from doctors to nurses and everybody.”


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