On Tuesday, the Sunshine Community Health Center Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting. Attending these meetings has become a regular practice for many in the community, and Tuesday was no exception. Nearly twenty community members attended, though, in a departure from previous meetings, none asked to be recognized as persons to be heard.
Near the beginning of the meeting, Board President David Sutton informed the attending staff and community members that the Board may be receiving assistance in the near future in the form of grant funding and guidance.
“The Board has contacted the Mat-Su Health Foundation. We’ve also been in contact with Foraker Group. The Mat-Su Health Foundation has offered a $15,000 grant to Sunshine Community Health Center–this has been solicited by the Board–for assistance to help the Board positively navigate the process.”
The process that David Sutton is referencing has to do with embattled Clinic Executive Director David Bryant. Since David Bryant made the decision not to renew the contract of Dr. Mary Loeb last summer, and throughout the upheaval that has followed at the Sunshine Clinic, community members have been asking when he would no longer hold the Executive Director position. David Sutton says that timeline is now three months.
The meeting contained several instances in which one or more Board members questioned Executive Director Bryant’s actions. In past meetings, most of the Board refrained from being openly critical of Bryant, but this meeting saw multiple instances where his decisions were called into question. One topic that drew criticism from multiple Board members was the discussion of two draft policies. One policy has to do with x-ray, lab, and other services ordered by doctors outside of the Clinic. That draft policy would instruct Clinic staff to refuse those services. Executive Director Bryant says that the policy protects the Clinic from liability in the event that the referring physician does not treat a condition that may be revealed by the testing. Board President David Sutton rejected that reasoning.
“I don’t know about all the liability stuff. All I know is we have a mission statement, and the mission statement says that we’re trying to provide medical care to the area of people that we serve. If there’s liability issues, then I’m thinking maybe we need more insurance.”
The other policy that generated significant discussion is the after-hours policy. A draft policy would make it so that patients would not be treated at the Clinic after hours, and would instead be given phone triage. Board member Kathy Ernst said that HRSA, the agency that oversees the Clinic’s federal funding, did not go so far as to say after-hours service should be eliminated.
“Their concern was the idea of home visits being in our policy, and it definitely probably shouldn’t be, and the whole idea of having another person with the clinician if you have after-hours. HRSA did not recommend that we totally give up our after-hours coverage and only have phone coverage. If someone needs to be stitched up, they should not have to drive to Wasilla.”
In the case of both policies, the chief criticism of some Board members is that neither has been approved, and should not be carried out until they are. Referencing one personal account and the financial records, those Board members felt that the policies were being treated as active. In a committee report, Board member Richard Burgener made note that requested updates were not received from Executive Director Bryant, and that Bryant was absent from the last policy committee meeting.
The finances of the Clinic were also discussed. Board member Richard Burgener stated that over the last six months, the Clinic has fallen $300,000 short on projected revenue. The Board voted to require Executive Director Bryant to submit a plan regarding the financial situation within two weeks.
After an executive session to interview two prospective Board members, the Board voted to seat Amanda Simpson as a new member. Bruce Gunderson’s application was denied in what was described as a split vote. It was also announced that Duronda Twigg’s application to the Board had been approved in committee, and would be passed on the the Board as a whole for a final decision.
The next meeting of the SCHC Board of Directors will be Tuesday, February 25th, in Willow.