Hospital board obstetrics measure fails on technicality

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

A resolution presented and tabled at January’s Roosevelt General Hospital Board of Directors meeting that sought to authorize a study on adding obstetrics at the hospital died on a procedural error at the February meeting held Tuesday.

After a contentious debate involving board members, staff, residents and others, a vote on the resolution which would have authorized a study estimated at $28,000 on the feasibility of offering OB service, the board tied 2-2 and the measure was tabled until all five members could vote.

Board chairman Terry Cone addressed the subject at Tuesday’s meeting by saying that the tie vote should have actually been a failed motion and therefore it couldn’t be tabled according to parliamentary procedure.

Local attorney Eric Dixon, who supports bringing OB service to RGH challenged Cone, saying he wasn’t sure the board had ever adopted procedure rules and if they had, questioned whether the chair should be voting other than to break a tie.

Cone and RGH administrator James D’Agostino countered with their own interpretations of the laws regulating the board. D’Agostino also reported that Artesia, cited as an example of a small hospital doing OB by Dixon last month, was looking at a $650,000 loss because of the service and administrators had told him they were looking to cease it.

Cone also handed out a letter he had sent to other board members along with a 2001 communication between D’Agostino and a La Casa Family Health Center doctor that informed La Casa that RGH was ready for OB as soon as two doctors, who could perform C-section had applied for credentials. Cone said only one ever applied.

“So this goes back to support why we never opened up OB,” Cone said. “The hospital has always been made out to be the fall guy but this shows we didn’t have the doctors to provide the service.”

Dixon contended that D’Agostino’s numbers on his own feasibility study took the lower end of the range of possible deliveries. He said that if a median number was used which would be just under 300 per year, a break-even could be achieved.

D’Agostino said that would assume that RGH would be able to capture every Roosevelt County birth according to New Mexico Department of Health figures. RGH staff members said that was very unlikely when one particular physician was already doing a large number of Roosevelt County deliveries in Clovis.

D’Agostino invited Dixon and board member Peggy Davis, who introduced the resolution to challenge the numbers he’d presented concretely.

“That’s why I presented the resolution, is so that we could get an outside entity to do a study,” Davis said. “I just thought that would settle things once and for all for people.”

D’Agostino said better estimates could have been done in the beginning if La Casa had shared their data with him. He said he was unable even after several meetings to gain their cooperation.

Dixon queried D’Agostino and the board as to whether or not they would sit down with La Casa’s board and administration if he arranged a meeting.

Board member Fred Anthony said he needed to see a committment from an established provider before he moved ahead with a study, saying he would rather use the study money for physician recruitment without that committment.

Board member Darwin Chenault agreed that for some reason La Casa had never been very willing to work with RGH. Chenault and the rest of the board agreed that they would be willing to sit down with them, however.

“You never actually know until you try,” Dixon said. “That’s my whole point with this obstetrics thing.”