Cash crisis, leadership change and employee turnover at San Juan Hospital.
Feb 06, 2014 | 7613 views | 3 3 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A financial crisis, a leadership change, and the recent resignation of three doctors at San Juan Hospital in Monticello is continuing evidence that health care in San Juan County is going through significant changes.

With cash resources severely depleted, the San Juan Health Service District faces a financial crisis. The district operates the San Juan Hospital and clinics in Blanding and Monticello.

Officials state that the financial crisis was brought about, in part, by the purchase of a new Electronic Health Records (EHR) billing system in the past year.

In March, 2013, the district spent $1.4 million for a Cerner Health billing system, with a service contract that includes a $29,000 monthly fee.

Despite the hefty price tag, local health officials state that integrating the new system at the district has not gone well.

As a result, billings have gone down, collections have suffered, and the amount of money due to the district has skyrocketed.

Currently, the accounts receivable to the district exceed $4.1 million. In the past, accounts receivable has generally hovered between $3 and $3.5 million.

Officials state that unpaid past-due bills are resubmitted and the bulk of the accounts receivable will still be collectible.

As the financial crisis deepened, the Health Care Board did not renew the contract of CEO Phil Lowe. In December, 2013, the board named Laurie Schafer, the longtime Director of Patient Care at the hospital, as the interim CEO.

In January, 2014, Dr. Curtis Black announced that he will leave San Juan County in July. He is moving to a new position in Corvallis, Oregon. Dr. Black has practiced medicine since 2007.

Dr. Black said that his move has nothing to do with recent events in the health district and is an opportunity for his family “to have a new adventure.”

Dr. Black began a job search in September, 2013, months before the current crisis at the district.

In recent days, Dr. Paul Reay and Dr. Bryce Peterson both gave 90-day notice to the San Juan Health Service District.

Dr. Reay announced on February 3 that he has secured a contract to provide emergency room services at the hospital in Moab. Dr. Reay has practiced medicine in Monticello for the past eight years.

In a resignation letter to the Health District, Dr. Reay said, “I must move on because of some fundamental philosophical differences with the direction that the hospital has taken in recent years and recent months.”

Dr. Peterson, who resigned on February 5, recently completed his medical training. He has practiced medicine in the area since August, 2013.

Schafer states that the district is actively recruiting new providers to the area. In addition, in coming weeks the district will receive the results of a review of the district by a financial expert. The review may result in additional changes, revenue enhancement and cost-cutting measures.

The recent past has brought additional changes in health care in San Juan County. Donna Singer has stepped down as CEO of both Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) and Blue Mountain Hospital (BMH). She is replaced at UNHS by Michael Jensen and at BMH by Jeremy Lyman.

March, 2013
• San Juan Health Service District purchases $1.4 million EHR system for the hospital and clinics. The expensive new system includes a $29,000 monthly maintenance contract.

December, 2013
• State of Utah suspends license of Surgeon Kris Hayes after complaints of unprofessional interaction with employees at the hospital in Moab. Hayes had provided general surgery services at San Juan Hospital for approximately five years. Since then, Dr. Robert Vasquez is providing surgical services at the hospital.

• After the financial crisis worsens, San Juan Health Service District does not renew the contract of district CEO Phil Lowe. Laurie Schafer, the longtime Director of Patient Care, is named the interim CEO.

January, 2014
• Health District initiates actions to cut expenses, including closing the Spanish Valley Clinic, instituting a hiring freeze, and eliminating overtime and a buy-back policy for unused vacation time.

• Dr. Curtis Black announces that he will move to Corvallis, Oregon in July, 2014. Dr. Black has practiced medicine since 2007.

February, 2014
• Dr. Paul Reay resigns his position at San Juan Hospital and announces that he will move to Moab.

• Dr. Bryce Peterson resigns his position at San Juan Hospital.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 07, 2014
It is truly sad to me as someone who grew up in San Juan County to see the lack of caring and loyalty to long time employees. Bringing in new management who don't know the workings of the systems and not listening to solutions offered by long time employees doesn't bode well.
February 06, 2014
I am concerned as to why there is no mention of the Moab Spanish Valley Clinic. It was closed on January 23, two days after the staff was informed of immediate closure. Two employees were laid off due to this closure. One employee had been employed by San Juan health Services for nearly 10 years.
February 07, 2014
The closure of the clinic, along with other cost cutting measures, is listed in the timeline portion of the story.
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