The Sunshine Community Health Center Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday at the Talkeetna Clinic. As has happened since the June meeting, concerned community members attended to observe and speak about what has happened at the Clinic since the departure of Medical Director Dr. Mary Loeb. The board room at the Talkeetna Clinic was crowded, as has been the case for months at the Sunshine Community Health Center Board of Directors meetings. Dave Sutton, the newly seated President of the Board, stated that there would be a public comment period, but that it would be limited to ten minutes. He also laid out clear guidelines, saying that the Board was aware of community members’ concerns, so revisiting them would be unnecessary. He also made it very clear that he did not want speakers to single out any individual for attack. Speakers at previous meetings have not been shy about pointed criticism of Clinic Executive Director David Bryant.
Of the nearly twenty community members present, five spoke. The first to address the Board was Larry Dearman, who turned in his application for membership on the Board at a meeting this summer. The Board is currently at seven members, and is required by its bylaws to get back to at least nine members. Larry Dearman said he was told that it would take two months to perform the necessary background checks.
Larry Dearman: “So, it’s about two months. I was wondering how my background check is doing. That’s my only question.”
Dave Sutton: “Background checks have had a little difficulty because of our HR person being gone. Some of them we thought were done weren’t. Their in the hands of committee at the moment, and we’re still moving on it.”
The second voice is Board President Dave Sutton. When asked by another speaker about alternative means of conducting background checks through law enforcement or other agencies, Dave Sutton reiterated that the process was ongoing. In addition to community members wishing to join the Board, some patients spoke about the damage to relationships between the Clinic and its patients, including one who says he had to drive to Wasilla for a second opinion after seeing a temporary provider at the Talkeetna Clinic, and says that his trust has been broken. Ruth Wood, who waited months to hear back on test results after Dr. Loeb’s contract was not renewed, is not optimistic about the Clinic’s future.
“I’m watching the Clinic spiral down, down, down. Unless we get some providers here who are competent, permanent, and become part of the community, this Clinic is going to fail. You guys are not telling us what’s happening. I really hate to see this Clinic fail, but I think that’s what’s happening.”
After hearing from community members, the Board conducted its regular business. Multiple committee reports were not available, due to those committees either not having members, or not having met since the October meeting. Among those was the Board Development Committee, who currently has applications for new Board members waiting for review. A meeting for that committee was set for early December. When Board Member Kathy Ernst asked when new members would be seated to fill committee seats, no answer was available. In addition, Board members also expressed concern that they were not receiving reports and other materials in time to review them fully before meetings.
The next Board meeting was scheduled for Monday, December 30th at the Willow Clinic.