Opinion: No trust with Tahoe Forest hospital administration, board | SierraSun.com

Opinion: No trust with Tahoe Forest hospital administration, board

Lynne R. Larson
Special to the Sun

Tahoe Forest Hospital is making wonderful strides.” Really?

Tahoe Forest Health District Board Chair Karen Sessler, in her guest column last week, is sounding like she is trying to convince the community that the hospital is making “wonderful” changes for the benefit of the community. I am not convinced — maybe you shouldn’t be either.

She claims only (my word) 4 percent to 5 percent of the money comes from our tax dollars. The rest of the revenue comes from “business operations.”

That revenue comes from the high prices; we the patients pay for hospital care, regardless of whether we have insurance or not.

She fails to mention the taxes we will continue to pay on the $98.5 million bond voters were misled into approving. The voters did not agree to a $30 million cancer center, which wasn’t mentioned until after the election. Those who spoke out were quickly dismissed from any oversight activities.

Let’s talk about Charity Cases — 5.4 percent is drop in the $180 million bucket. Next, Ms. Sessler touts the BBB bond rating, which is the lowest bond rating before “Junk Bonds.” It is mediocre at best.

She hit the nail on the head when she said the board works hard to support the doctors, clinical employees and staff. Seems to me the community is an afterthought due to pressure by a determined group of community members.

She claims that the hospital is suffering due to the lack of snow just like other businesses in town. Yet the hospital continues to subsidize the Multi-Specialty Clinic doctors who might not be working full time and are “just in case.”

I am still trying to figure out how this reduces costs to the patients and taxpayers. I am still trying to understand why the hospital spends money advertising in the local papers and a giant billboard on Donner Pass Road, when they are the only hospital in the area. When I asked for this cost, nobody seemed to know or weren’t saying.

Sessler admits to a 5 percent increase in some services. She fails to remind us that the hospital raised average rates twice in 2014 at 5 percent each time. She fails to mention that the cancer center is the cash cow for the hospital with costs that are obscene, in my mind, and a staff that is paid outrageous salaries.

She fails to mention the money spent to support Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Research. The Institute was founded in 2009 and has used public money to the tune of $400,000 a year in what appears, as of 2014, to have absolutely no results and can’t be discussed in public because it’s apparently so secret.

To top all of this, at the Aug. 25 Hospital Board meeting in closed session, the Board received the Health and Safety report. The public was not allowed this information, and I feel it should be public. If the hospital has such a stellar quality reputation, what are they hiding?

Community members who truly care about health care costs in this community have been attacked as misanthropists. If that is true, why would they waste their time working for affordable health care in our community? Why would they risk friendships and make personal sacrifices?

These community members will gain nothing financially. It is clear that the Administration and some Board members and friends of the hospital who might gain financially have no interest in what the community is saying.

Anyone without a direct connection to the hospital has been banned from the CEO search committee. Those involved have everything to lose. It is starting to appear that the Board wants someone who can walk in the shoes of the former CEO.

I have no trust or faith in the TFH current regime. I feel strongly there are some serious ethics issues. I am tired of the secrecy and the practice of making it difficult to get information that should be made public. What are they hiding? Transparency seems to be an alien concept.

Thank you to John Mohun and Greg Jellinek for being the bright lights and standing up for the Community while the rest of the Board appears to support the status quo. You give us hope that wonderful strides might occur.

Lynne R. Larson is a Truckee resident.