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Marias Medical Center’s (MMC) medical staff, administration and board members all have a common goal: providing the best possible care for the patients. And with that, understandably, comes a few challenges.

Some of these challenges were brought to light during the board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19. The hospital board, consisting of Toole County Commissioners Joe Pehan, Mary Ann Harwood and Don Hartwell, were made aware of concerns by Medical Staff Director Dr. Lewis, as well as a few Marias Healthcare Clinic (MHC) board members.

“We are concerned with the management of the hospital,” said MHC board member Brian Lee. “We are concerned for Radiology as it’s close to closing down, the large number of turnover with staff, the conflicts between the management and medical staff.” 

Lee continued, “The medical staff voted unanimously for CEO William Kiefer to resign yesterday. They have no confidence in the administration. What we have right now is not working and the Clinic Board is looking to totally separate from the hospital due to that.”

“The medical staff vote is a compliance and personnel issue and we won’t discuss it here,” said Pehan. “That will be an executive session. But us board members are not getting rid of William (Kiefer).”

CEO William Kiefer is only onsite 10 days a month, but he is always available to staff and administration at MMC. Kiefer stated that while he is not always on site, he is all about offering patients and staff the excellence in healthcare the facility has been promoting for years.

“I would do anything in my power to grow and improve this facility,” said Kiefer.

The Radiology Department at MMC is currently understaffed. Normally the department has a minimum of four employees. After the resignation of the head of the department on Wednesday, Sept. 18, the number of employees in the department has dropped to one.

“We have feelers out for someone to fill these positions,” said Pehan. “Even if it’s a traveler, we can have others fill in. We have feelers out there to see who’s interested. Today it is up in the air, but tomorrow we might know.”

 Dr. Lewis shared her concerns about communication and following the by-laws when dealing with issues at the hospital.

“William (Kiefer) refuses to communicate with me as an equal,” said Lewis. “He showed no respect for the physicians. We also have not done any peer reviews, which helps us improve on the care we provide.”

Kiefer explained the reason why there have been no peer reviews after a negative survey or patient complaint is simply due to the fact that he was trying to keep things a bit more low-key and friendlier. 

Kiefer said in the future he would follow the by-laws and work to keep communication open with the head of staff. 

Lewis voiced she and the medical staff would like independent counsel to help with some of these issues. The board agreed and stated that they would look into that.

Dr. Lewis shared the lack of qualified medical staff at the hospital is causing the facility’s OB services to possibly be suspended.

“Dr. Hardy and Dr. Biccum are concerned about delivering babies here,” said Lewis. “They haven’t pulled the trigger on that, yet, but they don’t feel confident.”

The board assured Lewis whether it be recruiting and hiring, or temporarily using traveling medical personnel, that qualified staff members will be available.

“We don’t want what is happening at the hospital with the medical staff to cause our physicians to leave,” said Lee. “The Clinic Board is happy with the physicians we have and it’s extremely difficult to bring them in and retain them. We have had little turnover the past few years and we want to keep it that way.”

“Rural and frontier hospitals are struggling to sustain themselves across the State,” said Harwood. “Therefore, they turn to larger medical facilities to support them. Marias Medical Center is one of those hospitals that are struggling. Because we are a county-owned hospital, $600,000–$800,000 per year is being lost in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. We feel that it is extremely vital to have a thriving medical facility in our community.”

She noted, “We are in the process of investigating our options to sustain our hospital. We are currently in the beginning stages of this process, but we will keep the public informed as we progress.” 

The hospital board agreed that recruiting new physicians is a difficult task and not one that anyone wishes to embark upon. Working together, following the by-laws and communicating with all involved is the best solution at this time and one that the board and Kiefer hope will have things operating more smoothly as they look into other opportunities to help guarantee the success and future of Marias Medical Center.

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