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‘Learning opportunity’

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Mary Stroka, NLJ reporter

Hospital board reacts to challenging letter

After Weston County Health District board President Dorothy Briggs shared a letter from News Letter Journal publisher Bob Bonnar at the board’s March 21 meeting, the board discussed its reaction to the letter in the context of the entity’s challenges.

Briggs said at the meeting that she was sorry that the agenda for the March 11 special meeting was unclear.

Walter Sprague, the photographer and art and culture reporter for the News Letter Journal, and William Curley, a resident, said they unsuccessfully attempted to attend the March 11 meeting, which was described in a notice as featuring “a H&H Leadership Solutions Proposal Presentation Potential Executive Session under Wyoming Statute 16-4-405(a)(ii).”

At that meeting, the board unanimously approved paying consultant H&H Leadership Solutions $45,000 for three months of advisory solutions and operational review work and roughly $108,000, for an interim chief human resources officer, for roughly 65 billable days.

“There was a piece where we thought that we were going to have an exec piece of the meeting, and it was decided last minute — and not by any executive committee as stated in Mr. Bonnar’s letter because we don’t even have an executive committee — but it was decided that we do the personnel piece first and get that off the table so that H&H could do their presentation,” Briggs said at the March 21 meeting.

According to Briggs, H&H and the board on March 11 discussed “personnel information” in the executive session, which “was totally appropriate,” before coming out into a public meeting. The agenda should have described the H&H item as “consideration to adopt” the contract with H&H.

She said at the March 21 meeting that the board will meet on Mondays and make sure its agendas are clear for regular and special meetings. The reason the board has had “a ton” of special meetings is because it “has been through a lot,” with the hiring of two new CEOs, “a lot of” personnel transitions, “issues” with the clinic and morale challenges, according to Briggs.

Hospital district leadership also responded to Bonnar’s concern about what appeared to be a single-source contract with someone who appeared to have ties to CEO Randy Lindauer.

“We do always try to talk about doing two bids, and we didn’t do that this time,” said trustee Ann Slagle, who noted that “time was of the essence” and that the district had experienced one provider quitting “over this.”

Trustee Karen Drost said that it costs at least $10,000 to receive another quote.

Lindauer said at the meeting that he had mentioned other firms that were around $300,000 and $225,000.

“Hopefully, this is a team-building exercise. I don’t know if it’s too late for that, but what I see is that we need to communicate better as a board to each other. We need to communicate better to the public. I think we’re learning,” trustee Nick Johnson said.

He said that the board hired H&H so it could receive an outsider’s perspective, and H&H has witnessed turmoil at a lot of different hospitals. The board will encounter criticism, and it needs to “move forward” so staff can follow the board’s lead and work in a way that builds trust, according to Johnson.

“This is a learning opportunity for what we did wrong and what we have got to do better at. Everything in there, do we agree with? Probably not. But how do we move forward in a way that gets us to where we want to be?” he said.

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