RHCD holds off on agreement

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PINEDALE – On Monday, the Sublette County Rural Health Care District board held a special meeting at the Commissioner’s Room in Pinedale, where it agreed to hold off on an expanded affiliation agreement with St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.

To begin the meeting, the board formally announced that a service agreement with Dougherty Mortgage and Neenan Archistruction was signed by the RHCD board on June 28. The service agreement calls for Neenan and Dougherty to collect information in order to give a recommendation on how the RHCD should proceed with regard to if the district needs a critical access hospital, where it should be constructed, how much to build and what services to provide.

The board then moved on to the second and last item of discussion on the agenda, regarding the expanded affiliation agreement with St. John’s.

RHCD chair Laura Clark said the decision to hold off on expanding from the 2015 affiliation agreement with the Jackson hospital came on the heels of a recent collaboration committee meeting on June 28. During that meeting, St. John’s CEO Paul Beaupré noted that the focus of interest has changed with the sustainability of the new study being conducted by Neenan and Dougherty.

According to meeting minutes, Beaupré said that energy needs to be focused on the study at this time, and that Neenan “needs to have free reign with absolutely no influence from St. John’s.”

From the discussion came a unanimous decision to withdraw the May 3 affiliation agreement, along with foregoing a management agreement for the time being. Since a 2015 affiliation agreement with St. John’s already exists, the RHCD will continue to operate under that agreement for now.

“The circumstances right now are such that, we thought it would be wise to wait for the Dougherty/Neenan reports and see what they come back with and what recommendations they have,” Clark said.

Clark then made a motion for the district to stick to the 2015 affiliation agreement as recommended by the collaboration committee until the board has had a chance to meet again with Charles Ervin of Dougherty and Michael Curtis of Neenan in September. The board unanimously approved the motion.

“We’re not changing direction; we’re just recognizing that a new document really isn’t needed to accomplish what we want to do between now and when we figure out what we’re going to do next as far as the hospital,” vice chair Scott Scherbel stated. “Why work on this, when what we really need to do is see what Neenan is going to recommend in the future. So, we just are continuing where we are and see what services St. John’s can help us with.”

During public comment, the board answered questions from community members to clarify why they’ve made certain decisions, where they stand currently, and additional information regarding the work being done by Dougherty, Neenan and BKD.

For more on that, see Tuesday’s Examiner.

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