The Governing Board of the Kane County Hospital (KCH) held its first meeting of 2011 on January 4.

Chairperson Dottie Ratzlaff welcomed Commissioner Jim Matson as the new Kane County Commission’s ex-officio representative to the hospital board, replacing out-going Commissioner Daniel Hulet. Matson briefly spoke on the county’s budget and the responsibilities of the commission.         

The current KCH Board members and their beginning date of volunteer service are as follows: Dottie Ratzlaff, Chair-2006; Chad Szymanski, Vice-Chairman-2008; Karen Alvey, Secretary-2008; Debbie Fox-2000, Gene Drake-2010, Carol Sullivan-2010, and Doyle Swallow-2009. The board officers were re-elected to serve another two-year term. 

The major issue before the board was the recent turnover of nursing staff. Dr. Jonathon Bowman said one reason might be the competition with the home health and hospice business in town. The nurses may be seeking regular hours, better benefits and a better pay scale.

Bowman said KCH has implemented a cross training program for nurses to better serve the hospital and the community. It is difficult to retain the nurses once they have completed that training and choose to move on to another job.

The recession may be another factor. Director of Nursing Rosalie Esplin commented this is the slowest flow of patients she has ever seen.

Chad Szymanski asked if KCH’s pay scale is comparable to other rural hospitals. Hospital Administrator Sherrie Pandya responded and gave this information obtained from surveys conducted by the Utah Hospitals Association and some of the western states.

In comparison to Utah rural hospitals, Kane County wages are equal or higher, especially in the area of the nurses’ wage scale. Compared to the larger hospitals such as Intermountain Health Care, Kane County is lower.

Pandya stressed the fact that since this is a rural hospital, the nursing staff is required to do a lot. This includes Emergency Room (ER), Med. search, anything required in OB Delivery, and Out Patient services. These are all typical responsibilities for a rural hospital setting. It may be difficult for some employees to adjust to those responsibilities.

Pandya explained how the cross training program gives the hospital the ability to adequately cover the shifts and provide quality patient care which is the goal of all hospital departments. Pandya said as of yet, “the employees haven’t bought into it (the program).”

Szymanski commented that maybe money isn’t the main cause of the turnover. The cross training program could be part of the reason since “nobody likes change.” Some nurses are more comfortable working in one particular area than in others and are doing a good job, but may resist the cross training program.

Gene Drake asked how the board can address the problem while staying within the hospital’s budget. The cross training program was implemented to save money. To date, that saving hasn’t materialized. Drake said that as a board member, “you really don’t know what goes on in the hospital,” the staff members do. He thinks the people within the hospital, especially those in leadership positions, have to buy into the program and have to try to make it work.

“We as a board want the hospital to be as successful as possible. We want to create more funds within this hospital to get better service, to make it a better work place for every single person who spends their days up here,” said Drake.

Dr. Bowman suggested that in the future any nurse hired be given a list of responsibilities (job description) that includes the cross training program.

In reference to the turnover situation, Ratzlaff said it is hard to put a finger on any one problem, as it may be a combination of a lot of things. The more experience a nurse has, the more valuable they become.

The hospital and the board will try to seek a balance to the whole turnover situation.

Esplin and the board members were in favor of keeping the needed cross training program in effect to accomplish the goal of working within the hospital’s budget and staffing while providing quality healthcare service to the community.

Pandya announced the Hospital Auxiliary authorized Chief Financial Officer Stephen Howells to transfer $40,000 from the Utah Public Treasurers Investment Fund to the hospital account to be used to finish the flooring, to purchase new thermometers, and various items for the emergency room (ER) for a total of approximately $20,000 with the balance to be used towards removing the berms, and eventually doing some landscaping. 

Howells said, year to date, the hospital overall is doing a little bit better than budgeted.

Commissioner Matson asked about the hospital’s general fund.

Howells explained access to the general fund has to be approved by the hospital board.

Human Resources Director Laurali Noteman announced Pat Robinson is working with the Volunteer Center in expanding the Hospital Gift Shop to make it profitable by keeping it open on a regular schedule. Noteman also announced the Housekeeping Department is organizing a 1970s theme dinner on January 13 for the employees and their families.

The Hospital Administrators Report included the 2011 committee appointments.

Standing hospital board committees are: executive committee, consisting of the officers of the board; finance and planning committees, each comprised of three members who do not necessarily need to be board members. The board chairman and the hospital administrator are ex-officio members of all board committees. The 2011 appointments remained the same.

The Hospital Board Bylaws need to be reviewed on a yearly basis. The board approved the bylaws to include video conferencing if available.

Personnel policy changes: Background checks for all employees and volunteers will be brought before the board in February. Pandya stated that basically is the standard now.