Guest Column: Setting the record straight on our motivations
October 23, 2014
After enduring more than six weeks of false innuendos and now outright misrepresentations of fact asserted in this newspaper by my opponent, Dr. Ned Hughes, I feel that I must set the record straight.
Contrary to Dr. Hughes' writings in his Oct. 11 letter, "A fresh approach for the hospital board," nobody on our team of Mark Spohr, MD, Mr. John Falk, or myself, Greg Jellinek, MD has any "agenda" other than to make our Tahoe Forest Hospital succeed and thrive.
In 31 years as a member of the Tahoe Forest Hospital's Medical Staff, I have watched our hospital progress from a small rural facility to a wonderful critical access hospital that would be the envy of most small communities.
My hat is off to all of my fellow medical professionals, to the administrators, prior governing boards, and most importantly to the best nursing and support staffs that I have ever seen and/or worked with since I graduated from medical school.
The reason that I decided to come back to the hospital as a candidate for your hospital's board of directors — after I had retired from medical practice earlier this year — is that I believe that the hospital's current business plan is unsustainable from an economic standpoint.
Before I "hung up my scalpel" patients started asking me if I could schedule their surgeries at someplace other than the Tahoe Forest Hospital.
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Those patients claimed that our hospital was becoming just too expensive for them, and these are the very same people who were already paying a considerable amount of their incomes to our hospital in the form of substantially high property taxes!
This is a relatively small community. There are only some 39,000 people living in our hospital district. The hospital cannot survive if more than a few of our residents seek health care elsewhere.
The fact that the large capital investments that the hospital has made with borrowed monies that must be paid back, regardless of income generated, is a bit unsettling.
At the same time the patient traffic recorded at the hospital has decreased on both an inpatient and outpatient basis over the last several years.
The hospital in response to this decreased patient traffic has repeatedly raised it charges for services rendered. In fact, there have been two large price increases this year already! In my humble opinion this only serves to drive more patients away from the hospital.
My team encourages programs whereby services that utilize fixed costs/overhead can and should lower prices back to provide a small profit margin.
Those fixed costs/overhead don't change much with (increased) incremental usage. For example, doing 25 MRIs doesn't cost that much more than doing 10 MRIs. The MRI machine is already owned or leased. The technicians are already employed. The radiologist is already on staff. The maintenance contract on the MRI is already in place. It does not cost that much for the electricity to run the machine.
Isn't a profit of a few hundred dollars per MRI better than no profiting whatsoever if the patients elect to go elsewhere (like Reno)? The same could be said for the laboratory and/or x-ray departments.
We want to see our hospital thrive, not enter a "death spiral" of fewer patients and increasing prices. I am now hearing that employees, both professional nurses and technicians, as well as custodial employees, are fearful for losing their jobs as patient traffic dwindles and the hospital's administration "tightens its belt."
We cannot let this happen to these fine folks. Don't buy into the mudslinging being levied against our team of candidates by others in the community. It has no basis in fact.
Please consider the fate of your hospital when you cast your ballots on Nov. 4. Vote for Spohr, Falk and Jellinek.
Greg Jellinek, MD, is a candidate for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors.