The Sutton County Hospital District board of directors met behind closed doors Monday evening, July 6, to hash out a disagreement over the board’s election of officers.

The executive session was held in addition to an open public meeting in which regular governing business was handled as well. There was a crowd of about a dozen visitors.

Not all board members were in favor of the private discussion. Some insisted that it be open to the public.

“I have respect for all board members and I realize we are not always going to agree,” board member Edward Earwood said. “When one board member disagrees with an action or policy of another board member, I believe that board member should have the right to discuss the differences in open session.”

In agreement, board member Mary Humphrey also voiced her request to allow the public to hear the discussion.

Board President Mark Edwards showed no willingness to respect the requests.

Persisting, Earwood said, “I requested two items be added to the agenda this evening and I was looking forward to discussing them in open session.

Both items have instead been placed in executive session by the board president. Neither of my discussions involved anything confidential that would warrant closed session. I also have requested to the president of the board that I be included in all legal counsel communications he has to which I have been denied. I believe transparency and our current one board member communication with legal counsel produces secretiveness and poor governance. Taxpayers want to know if legal counsels are acting on behalf of the board’s direction, or the president of the board’s direction. As an example, the president of the board is denying board member requests to receive copies of a very important governing document which was recently updated. As long as hospital funds are being used, the board should be aware and participate in legal counsel communications.”

Board President Mark Edwards replied that he was not aware of any board member requests for documents or information.

Reconvening into open session, Board Members Noemi Samaniego and Don Longoria quickly moved to adjourn. No action was taken.

During their open meeting, board members voted in favor of a capital purchase in the amount of $20,589 for a Lucas device with extended care plan for Sutton County EMS. The device is a mechanical CPR machine used by paramedics.

Additionally, board members agreed to a monetary commitment in the amount of $9,850 to pay half the annual premium to provide Medivac supplemental insurance for Sutton County residents. The Sutton County Health Foundation (SCHF) has committed to paying an equal amount, according to Foundation Member Carl Teaff. Teaff said the supplemental policy is available to all Sutton County residents who have private insurance coverage. The additional coverage insures that any expenses not paid by an individual policy will be paid. The coverage applies to injuries requiring air ambulance transport that happen in Sutton County. Teaff said residents may choose to upgrade for additional coverage.

“For $30 more a year, people can get coverage that pays if they are injured out of county and need air ambulance service,” Teaff said.

Next, Chief Nursing Officer Hillary Galindo gave an overview of a 15-page COVID-19 Plan. The plan is designed to address identifying patients, testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients. The plan also outlines necessary details and procedures relating to COVID-19. Board Member Don Longoria asked about patient privacy and protection against HIPPA violations. Galindo assured him that the hospital, staff and health care providers are appropriately reporting patient information as required while also protecting patient’ s personal medical information as also required.

From an administrative position, Interim CEO Lance Keilers talked about the hospitals’ acquisition of grant funding. Keilers noted two necessary expenses that will be paid using grant funds.

Expenses to conduct a review of emergency room charges to enhance productivity will be paid with a grant. Moreover, replacement of the hospital’s obsolete nurse call system is possible through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement (SHIP) grant. Bids to replace have already been obtained, he added.

“This is an investment in patient care for the future,” Keilers said.

Next, Keilers reported that a security risk analysis has been performed and recommendations will be considered. Chief Operations Officer Joe Marshall has also been designated the Information Security Officer.

Keilers also noted an anticipated expense between $7,000 to $10,000 for necessary ambulance repairs. Noting the age and questionable reliability of the existing ambulance fleet, Keilers said the board should begin to think about an update.

“There is a need for a new ambulance to maintain quality patient care,” Keilers said.

As for other patient services and programs, Keilers said the Behavioral Health Program, initiated by Andy Kolb, is still being considered. The out patient program will move forward as soon as the Sonora ISD Vocational building is available, a lease agreement is approved and renovations to the space are completed, he said. As well, work continues towards the goal of implementing a Hospice program, he added.

Wrapping up his report, Keilers reminded the board that the August meeting will include an annual audit review.

General housekeeping business included the approval of the minutes of the June 1, 2020 regular meeting and the financial report ending April 30, 2020, financial report ending May 31, 2020 and expenditures for May and June 2020 as presented.

The board also OK’d the board secretary to sign off on MCN Policy manager with board approval. The policy program is an electronic record of individual policies as approved by the hospital board.

There was no other business discussed.

Board President Mark Edwards presided over the meeting. Board members Edward Earwood, Mary Humphrey, Don Longoria, Noemi Samaniego and John Henry Strauch were present. Board member Adelita Alvarez was absent.

The Sutton County Hospital District Board of Directors is usually meets on the second Monday of each month. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.