A community discussion about the Fallon Medical Complex returned to the Longfellow School gymnasium April 28, but without members of the board of directors or officials attending.
The business and its operations were still the main topic of the meeting, with the chief executive officer, David Espeland, drawing sharp criticism from the audience.
There had been an earlier public meeting held March 18 when the board, the CEO and some members of the staff attending with more than 200 people in the audience.
The meeting Thursday was much smaller, but still had a boisterous response from some members of the audience on how some patients, employees and others were treated at the facility.
According to Brenda Stoddard, she thought the members of the board, management and the staff would not be attending the Thursday evening meeting to discuss what some in the community were considering problems in how the non-profit medical facility was being operated in Baker.
“The board wasn’t here. Dave wasn’t here. It makes a big difference. I knew they probably weren’t going to come,” she explained after the two-hour long meeting broke up. “They were invited.”
Stoddard started the discussion by pointing out some things she thought were irregularities and shortcomings in the operations of the medical facility and often broke away to discuss problems, comments and questions which members of the nearly 60 people in the audience brought up.
“After the last public meeting, that Friday I had 65 people contact me that wanted to know what I had to say. They said ‘you did not get to speak and we would like to hear what you want to say,’” Stoddard said.
According to Stoddard, they wanted to do another community meeting. “I got about 35 more calls and so I said okay, it is warranted.
“At the last meeting, what I wanted was for the public to be able to ask their questions to David and the Board of Directors because they were here. I knew they would never come back. I knew that was going to be a one-shot deal. Still, I wanted the public to be able to ask those questions.
“The community wants to see change,” she said, adding that there are problems in recruiting and retention that impact the people in Fallon County. “I had to explain to them that I can’t do it. It is set up that way. You don’t want one person to have control of a situation like that.
“The community needs to know that they now have the power. We know that now. We never did before. David talked about the community not becoming involved (at the previous meeting). But that was only because David only called the people he wanted to call. He didn’t let the general public know. He could have put that same letter to the editor in the paper that I did about how to become a member of FMC Inc. … he could have put that in the paper at any time in the last 25 years, but he didn’t,” she said.
“That is how you retain control. You don’t open it up to the public,” Stoddard explained. “It is a 501c3, but it is still a private company. He wanted to maintain control and didn’t want just anybody up there. But now, with the things that are going on up there and the inability of him wanting to work with our providers. If they only want to work three days a week.... so get four of them and alternate and have one take one weekend a month. If you have four of them, they only have to take one weekend a month. It is a pretty simple concept,” she said.
“The providers get here, and they buy houses when they get here, but David is just not a people person,” Stoddard said, adding that one person came up to her after the previous meeting and told her that David was just not a people person. “He knows what he does for the hospital and he is good at finding the good equipment deals and doing that stuff. We can’t fault him for that. He is fine for that.”
“But he doesn’t have the people skills to work with the nurses,” she said.
That is a big problem at the medical facility. “You can not have that and have a happy place to work. That is why we can not keep a provider. We can come up with all these different excuses as to why we can’t keep a provider, but it comes down to the morale of the hospital and the employees that work there.”
“An employee came to me in tears asking me if there was anything that I could do to help them,” Stoddard said. “That is how come I started this. I don’t have anything personal against the board. I’ve known all of them – except for one – all of the years that I have been here (in Baker). I don’t have anything personal against David.”
But it was what Stoddard described as an abusive work environment that prompted her to become vocal and act, she explained.
In fact, she praised the FMC Inc. CEO for his business skills. She just thought that should be his entire focus and relegate the employee control to someone else.
“That would be a viable option,” she said. “If there could be a liaison between the board and the employees, maybe that could be the answer.”
One way to solve the problems at the medical complex would be for more people in the community to become involved and members, she explained to the audience.
“I was not here to tell people to vote for or against,” she added, noting the mill levy.
The people running the medical facility need to concentrate on trying to bring providers to Baker and then retain the providers and employees. “The people are just upset about the lack of continuity and care. That is why we are trying to do this,” Stoddard explained.
The community was able to speak, she said about the April 29 meeting.