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Pioneers board ousts Brim, 3-2

April 24, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Ending a 14 year contractual relationship with Brim Healthcare Inc., the Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District Board of Directors voted 3-2 Monday to terminate its management contract with the Portland, Ore.-based company.

Board member Katy Santillan, a vocal opponent of Brim's services, laid blame on Brim for much of the district's financial troubles before initiating the motion which terminated the contract.

"I feel that it's time for this hospital to stand alone," Santillan said.

Board member Aleta Shropshire disagreed with Santillan's accusations, saying that Brim was not responsible for what Santillan called "blunders."

"Ultimately, the board is responsible for this district," Shropshire said. "I feel that Brim is giving us what we paid for."

Brim President Dave Woodland said, "If this community is going to succeed, I think you need to continue the contract."

Shropshire and Leo Haggarty, both vocal supporters of Brim, voted against the termination.

Board President Marcus Tapia and board member Daniel Paramo joined Santillan in voting to terminate the contract.

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Brim officials sat silently, their faces devoid of emotion, during the terminating vote and throughout the unfavorable comments from the audience during the public comment section early in the meeting.

"I know there's a lot of excitement in the air," said Tapia as he called the meeting to order early Monday evening, alluding to issues and concerns with Brim that dominated the evening's meeting.

"I think Brim has been detrimental," said Brawley resident Kathy Stewart.

Stewart blamed Brim for the hospital's shortage of nurses and said the hospital was able to manage itself without Brim's consultation.

Brim officials told the board that shortages in nursing staff has been a national problem.

Dr. Travis Calvin, chief of staff at Pioneers, told the board that his staff was divided in their support of Brim and reminded the board of Brim's history with the hospital.

"For many years, Brim did not listen to this hospital," Calvin said.

"Right now is the wrong time to be talking about this," said Rick Goldsberry, director of education for the hospital.

Citing the upcoming accreditation the hospital will undergo, Goldsberry told the board "right now is the wrong time to change management."

Goldsberry added, "I have no problem with reassessing Brim after the accreditation."

Clyde Carson, patient advocate for Pioneers, told the board, "(Chief Executive Officer Richard) Mendoza is the right fit for this hospital and a change would be detrimental."

Both Mendoza and Chief Financial Officer Dan Heckathorne are Brim employees. Heckathorne has worked at the hospital for the entire 14 years of the Brim contract.

The hospital has faced a budget deficit over the last two years that has led the board to instigate an assessment on district residents' property taxes.

Delays in construction projects and dissipating revenues has kept the hospital from covering its $24 million bond payments to finance the hospital's new emergency room and women's and surgery centers.

The board voted last year for a five-year contract with Brim. Under the contract, Brim would have received $590,000 per year plus an annual increase determined by the consumer price index following the second year of contract.

A clause in the contract allowed for termination by the board, without cause, at the end of the contract's first year.

Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be reached at 337-3452.

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