The Coastal Post - December, 1996

The Marin General Hospital Election

BY NORMAN CARRIGG, M.D.

Some background

Last April a doctor friend on the Sutter Solano Hospital staff, Vallejo, reported that at a hospital staff meeting, a Sutter organization official assured the Vallejo doctors that everything is up and running at Marin General and Novato Community hospitals and everything is according to Sutter plans. I checked this quote with another doctor who attended the meeting. The quote is accurate. MGH and NCH are Sutter hospitals at this time. No need for the charade that MGH is just a Sutter affiliate. It's a Sutter organization cash cow!

When Henry J. Buhrmann, the MGH administrator, privatized the hospital in 1985 with consent of the five elected directors, the pitch was survival in a highly competitive market. In 1986 MGH "affiliated" with California Healthcare System, San Francisco. Millions of dollars which could have been used for patient care were siphoned to CHS, never to return. Sutter and CHS joined forces. Early 1996 MGH "affiliated" with the Sutter organization and now MGH monies are siphoned to Sacramento. Patient revenue simply flows east to Sacramento rather than south to San Francisco.

When funds in the MGH till exceed the amount needed to operate the hospital for two weeks, the excess funds go to Sutter in Sacramento, probably never to return. This is perfectly legal because of permission obtained at a meeting of the elected hospital board.

If this is to your taste, you could thank the directors who made this largesse to Sutter possible: Dr. Larry Bedard, Valerie Bergmann and Suzanna Coxhead.

The election

The Marin General management pitch about the elected board is that its only function is as lessor for the hospital as the lessee. Yet the management worked hard to get its director choices for the hospital board, Tiffany Franchetti and Linda Tavaszi, elected. The chief of staff, Dr. Janet Bodle, whose salary is paid 50% by the medical staff and 50% by the hospital wrote letters to the doctors hustling this pair. Their campaign was anything but underfunded.

The November hospital election results surprised me. Neither Franchetti nor Tavaszi was elected, but two strong consumer advocates made it. Linda Remy and Sylvia Siegel will be on the hospital board for the first time. Dr. Diana Parnell was re-elected. These three will counterbalance Directors Bergmann and Coxhead, two management sycophants.

For the first time in years the elected board will meet monthly instead of quarterly and provide a venue for people who have had problems with the hospital which have not been satisfactorily resolved. The board should have been doing this right along but did not.

So I have hope that the elected hospital board will look out for its constituents, the residents of Marin. The hospital district residents for the first time in years will have an adequate elected hospital board, one that is more interested in the welfare of its constituents than the welfare of the hospital management.

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