Three candidates for the Silver Creek Township hospital board seat include incumbent Brian Doyle, who is seeking a second four-year term.
One of Doyle’s challengers is Dr. Alyas Masih, a family practitioner who has worked at the Monticello Clinic three years. He worked in hospital management through most of the 1990s in Pakistan, after completing a degree in England, and he has practiced medicine for about 10 years in Minnesota with work in Hallock, Warroad and St. Cloud before coming to Monticello. A third candidate from Silver Creek is Douglas Schneider.
The Monticello Times asked hospital board candidates to submit biographical information and answer these questions:
1) The Monticello-Big Lake Hospital District Board of Director’s decision to establish a 501c3 non-profit organization represents a landmark operational change. If elected, how will you explain this change to the public?
2) How can the board of directors help New River Medical Center staff overcome an $11 million 2013 budget shortfall?
3) Finally, if elected, how would you work with hospital board members and staff to improve public trust and confidence in hospital operations, and to mend strained relationships with doctors from the Monticello Clinic? Candidate biographies appear first, followed by question responses.
Brian Doyle: I have lived in the Monticello-Silver Creek area for 45 years. My wife, Judy, and I have been married for 51 years and have five children, Tim, Kathy, Colleen, Michele, and Pat, all of whom have graduated from Monticello High School. I am a retired media supervisor from the Osseo School System. My work experience also includes teaching classes at North Hennepin Community College, St. Cloud State University, Hamline University, and the University of Minnesota. My education includes a B.S. Degree in English, a Master’s Degree in Instructional Media and 60 credits beyond a Master’s in Management, Business and Technology. I have served on the New River Medical Center Board (NRMC) for four years. Since joining the board, I have been awarded Trustee Certification from the Minnesota State Hospital Association by completing the coursework needed. In the past, I have also been a member of the Community Education Advisory Board for Monticello Schools, and as a member of the Knights of Columbus have volunteered at St. Henry’s Catholic Church. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alyas Masih: Family: Wife, Tamara Ann Alyas Masih, six sons (Shawn Masih, Asher Masih, Ambrose Masih, Kameron Masih, Noah Masih, Ezekiel Masih) and daughter (Aasia Masih). Education: Family medicine physician with a degree in Health Services and Hospital Management degree (London, U.K.) Silver Creek Township resident for past three years. Contact: email@example.com
Douglas Schneider: Spouse: Karen M. Schneider; Children: Morgan M. Schneider (Currently attending University of Wisconsin Madison for Nuclear Engineering). I have lived in the Monticello area my whole life. My father owned Schneider’s Pool Hall in downtown Monticello and my mother owned Stella’s Café, also downtown. Currently, my wife and I own and operate Kustom Blinds & Draperies, Inc. in downtown Monticello. I served on the Monticello-Big Lake Community Hospital Board of Directors from 2005-2008 and as treasurer for two of those years. I was chairman of the Downtown Business Association and a past and current supervisor for the Silver Creek Township Board Education: Major in Accounting, minor in Business Administration Occupation: Controller for several large companies before operating my own business.
Brian Doyle: The NRMC launched an intense study with a committee of employees, medical staff and community members. The rationale for the change to a 501c3 includes the ability to utilize an appointed board in addition to an elected board. This appointed board would include members that are identified as having skills and talents that are needed by the hospital. For example, we have a need for more input by doctors and medical people, and we have made provisions for that. There would still be an elected board, but their roles would change. Neither board would be paid. In addition, the new governance model won’t hold us to the open meeting laws. This allows for a broader spectrum of planning and strategy development. The 501c3 designation also allows for some expanded fiscal opportunities. I will continue to communicate these key steps to the board and audience at the Silver Creek Township monthly meetings as I have in the past and to any other venue that is interested.
Alyas Masih: The decision by the hospital to become a 501c3 non-profit organization brings a lot of benefits. It allows the hospital flexibility and the ability to do business in a way that most other health care organizations operate. This new structure will help the hospital thrive in the future, because its competitors will not be able to know their strategic plan before it’s implemented. It also allows the hospital to identify and recruit the individuals with the skills needed to sit on their board to optimally advise the organization.
Douglas Schneider: The 501c3 process was flawed from the beginning; the citizens from Silver Creek Township were quick to point that out at Silver Creek’s annual meeting. When you had the hospital’s CEO and the chairperson handpicking the committee members, they were going to get the results they wanted. I also think other options should have been looked at and explored in more detail. As for the 501c3 agreement, I think the current agreement needs some changes to be made to protect the taxpayer. The current hospital board has voted to raise the levy to 1.5 million dollars to pay for the bonds used to purchase assets for the hospital. Article 26 of the current agreement allows the 501c3 to purchase these same assets for $1 dollar. So over the years the taxpayers have paid millions for the hospital, the 501c3 can purchase the asset for a dollar and is then able to sell those same assets for market value, making a huge profit at the taxpayers’ expense. To make the citizens pay taxes for 45-plus years, and then take away all the assets that have accumulated over those years is wrong. I will work to see that this particular item gets changed as well as other items in the current agreement.
Question 2 (Budget Shortfall)
Brian Doyle: The NRMC Board and management have initiated a number of steps that will help overcome the negative picture of a budget deficit. This will primarily happen through adding specialized service additions as well as expansion of additional primary care patients. We have already established new contracts and revenue streams with the St. Cloud Orthopedic Surgical Group and with a female run nationally recognized OB-GYN group named Clinic Sofia. We are also in final stages of negotiations with other groups that should increase services to residents in this area. In addition, the New River Medical Clinic has been showing a steady growth. The alignment process we are going through will help us with some needed financial growth and professional support as well. Most importantly, I fully expect the strained relations between the Monticello Clinic and the NRMC to ease, and we will be able to work together again fairly soon. Until then, I will endorse moving forward as we have been doing.
Alyas Masih: It is the responsibility of the board of directors to set the direction of the hospital. It is then their responsibility to make sure the CEO and administration is following that, and doing what’s right for the hospital and community. It is clear that the direction of the current board and CEO has driven the hospital into financial ruin, and has significantly reduced hospital services available to the members of the district. I think the board needs new direction – one that includes actively working to re-engage the physicians that take care of the majority of patients that use the hospital. I believe that the hospital needs to collaborate and cooperate with the medical staff, rather than try and control them.
Douglas Schneider: The shortfall is a very serious issue. The board has only two ways of overcoming this shortfall; by improving the revenue stream or by cutting expenses. In order to improve revenue we must mend our fences with the local doctors and work closely with specialists to bring in more patients to the hospital. We need to review our services and possibly reopen some areas that have been shut down, such as the newly remodeled birthing center/nursery. On the expense side, implement lean inventory that will keep supplies low, but still allows the hospital to service the needs of the community. Control employee related cost by being lean while still meeting the department’s needs. The board’s job is to oversee management and make sure management is addressing all issues and meeting the needs of the hospital and the community it serves. The board needs to implement a business plan that includes provisions for current and future needs and provides guidance for the hospital’s growth. Having the right business plan would have addressed and resolved many of the current issues.
Question 3 (Relationships)
Brian Doyle: We need to reenergize our efforts with better public communication. I will push to have NRMC management, board members, and specifically myself to have a greater level of openness on what is happening as we move toward alignment. We have no secrets other than what our potential alignment partners dictate and some infrequent internal activities. I believe the Monticello Clinic and the New River Hospital want the same thing for this community, and that is the best medical care possible. I believe the more we can communicate the easier it will be to reach this goal. I see an improvement in this area and will continue to encourage and try to increase communication opportunities.
Alyas Masih: I am a physician at the Monticello Clinic. I feel that physician representation on the board is critical to establish lines of communication and to understand the issues that the medical staff face at the hospital. The board members should be seeking the input of the medical staff rather than excluding them from decisions that affect how and where they care for patients. Open and honest communication and negotiations must be restored. Representation at the board level (without being excluded from meetings) is imperative to help restore some trust. Currently major decisions are being made for the care of patients, and physicians are not included. I would change that.
Douglas Schneider: The current conditions with the doctor group are horrendous. I find it hard to believe that after 20+ years of working together, there is no common ground. If the doctor group does not like dealing with the CEO, then the board needs to step in and work it out. The last time I was on the hospital board we were told that only doctors can send patients to the hospital. We have to work together with the doctor group for the benefit of the community, hospital – and the doctors. This is not about who said what or secret agreements or anything else; it’s about providing the community with quality health care. Trust is earned, not given and the trust between the hospital and the doctor group has to come from dealing with the administration, this area needs immediate attention by getting the hospital administration and doctor group to communicate to repair broken alliances. The public’s trust in the hospital comes from the actions of its employees, administration and board of directors. It is hard to trust individual board members when they choose to sign a commitment letter putting the hospital first and the taxpayers second. I refused to sign this commitment letter when I was on the board because I believe the taxpayers should come first.