In gathering for their October 29 regular meeting, governing board members for Sierra Vista Hospital (SVH) formally welcomed the facility’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Stokes to his first session. At the meeting’s adjournment, hospital authorities and SVH staff members also bade their final farewells to Interim CEO David Faulkner, who was set to depart the community later that afternoon.
During the session, the board did take a few minutes aside to share their appreciation for the commitment and efforts Faulkner has brought to the facility since joining the administration as part of the contracted Quorum Health Resources team in 2018. Board chairman Dr. Greg D’Amour presented the outgoing ICEO with a commemorative plaque expressing the hospital staff’s personal thanks for his leadership, before board members stood and affirmed the sentiments by joining in a round of applause for Faulkner.
COVID RISE CAUSING HAVOC
Among primary issues discussed October 29, was a continued rise in positive COVID-19 cases across New Mexico and nationwide. While SVH, and likely many other smaller facilities have not as yet encountered any uptick in local cases, surges across Texas and in other locations have prompted many major hospitals to cease accepting patient transfers.
Faulkner told the governing board that none of the major health centers in Texas were presently accepting transfers, and said SVH’s only options were to continue seeking available hospitals elsewhere in the country, or to hold patients here and cope as best as possible.
Because SVH is a designated critical access hospital, one of its primary functions is as an initial staging facility. Patients in need of immediate care across the region are directed to SVH for assessment and stabilization, before being airlifted, or otherwise transferred to larger and more specialized facilities for further care. The near shut down of transfer options is a significant concern, as SVH is only designed to accommodate a modest number of inpatients. Although the new facility does now boast isolation capabilities necessary for COVID-19 and other helpful advancements, these also are very limited. While the coronavirus is apparently causing this emergency situation, patients in need of care for this concern and all other medical needs are being affected.
To prepare for a potential overflow of inpatients, Faulkner reaffirmed that a special waiver had been granted, allowing the use of available patient beds in the old hospital building. While patient services were formally transferred to the new hospital earlier this summer, board members were assured that the old facility was kept intact and was prepared to be utilized if and when necessary. Faulkner said if the old building’s facilities were called upon, they would likely be used to house non-COVID patients, while space in the new hospital would be dedicated for COVID-19 and other acute cases.
Although not yet pressed to such decisions, Faulkner told the board that situations appeared to be still tightening and indicated use of this contingency was likely.
BOARD ACTION AND OTHER ITEMS
•Governing board members unanimously approved a proposed $52,186 contract with Las Cruces-based contractor Mevacon, llC, for final renovation of the new hospital’s pharmacy. Although built to pre-approved specifications, a subsequent inspection by concerned authorities identified the need for an additional doorway and window, and other minor revisions after construction concluded. Although tempered by the recent kitchen project that grew from a two-week job to more than a year-long effort, Faulkner said he would expect these final adjustments to be completed within the coming weeks.
•The board also unanimously approved a change in signatory authorization for the hospital, adding CEO Stokes to the now four-person list of those designated to affirm bank transactions.
•With the rise in COVID-19 cases in mind, board members engaged in a lengthy discussion about current precautions within SVH. Among issues outlined were how the facility is prepared to handle staff members who may be exposed to the coronavirus. Discussion also focused on steps being taken to assure proper protocols for positive case isolation and the reentry of such individuals to the workforce.
•Board members received a regular update concerning nursing services from Interim Chief Nursing Officer Cindy Johnson. It was noted how Johnson now wears several important hats for the facility and is presently adding this post’s responsibilities to her other duties while a permanent replacement is being sought.