NIH meeting: ‘We have to work together’

By Deb Murphy

Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Northern Inyo Hospital board was, literally, standing room only.

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The board opted to strictly adhere to the 50-person limit on the meeting room on Birch Street; the other approximately 50-55 people in attendance lined a long hallway through a 90-minute report from the district’s auditor, waiting for the public comment period. As people wound their way into the room to comment on issues raised by healthcare staff forming a union, someone in one of the 50 meeting room seats had to leave.

While this regular board meeting was less tense than the special meeting called Feb. 10, more community members stepped up questioning both the board and the administration.

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Becky Taylor spoke first, accusing board members of abdicating to the chief administrative officer, Victoria Alexander-Lane. Taylor wants to see a community forum put together to address the issues of what she called “a toxic environment.” Those issues included unhappy employees, the number of terminations and those reversed by the board, the Human Resources Department as an employee advocate and the nurses’ concerns prior to forming a union.

Eric Richman, a Bishop school district board member and husband of an NIH nurse, challenged Board Chair M.C. Hubbard’s assertion that the Brown Act requires that once a meeting place is posted that location is set in stone. “You just have to leave somebody to point (to the changed board venue,” Richman said. “Why do you need security?” he asked. “Why did we have to stand through a 1-1/2 hour audit report. The board is in charge. The employees do not feel valued. This shouldn’t be a you against them situation,” he added. Security staff said they were there primarily for crowd control.

Dr. William Dillon

Dr. William Dillon

Dr. William Dillon spoke to the rumors circulating among the staff and the community, specifically that staff could not approach board members or speak on hospital issues. “I don’t know if it’s true,” he said, “but it doesn’t seem right. It’s (the rumors) like fire, it just consumes everything. The board has to be open, honest and direct and stay involved with terminations. We have to work together.”

Two of the speakers, hospital staff, asked that the board hold off on approving the hospital’s new grievance policy that removed the board from the process.

Chief of Staff, Dr. Thomas Boo began his report by saying “I can’t sit here like it’s business as usual. You know the medical staff is having a meeting regarding the hospital leadership.”

Hubbard had responded to earlier questions of staff speaking to board members. “I need to clear up that perception,” she said. “It’s not true.” To Boo, Hubbard said “this is not on the agenda. We can’t discuss anything but policies and appointments” two items on Boo’s staff report.

The new business and action item on the hospital’s complaint and grievance policy was tabled for lack of a second to Dr. John Ungersma’s motion. Both Ungersma and Hubbard explained that eliminating the board of directors as the last appeal for complaints or terminations was standard procedure at other hospitals. Board member Pete Watercott explained that it is difficult for the board to judge what really happened when an employee is terminated. “The few times we have overturned a dismissal,” he said, “it makes it very hard on management.”

Alexander-Lane explained that she simply followed policy in the employee disciplinary process. “We do value our staff,” she said. “This is being perpetuated by people with a hidden agenda. They’re fear mongering.”

As for the nurse’s progress toward a union, committee spokesman Christine Haney said the hospital had requested the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees validate only the RN union on the grounds that nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the other categories included in the organizing effort, have less in common with RNs.

To expedite the union effort, Haney said, the RNs will proceed with their union, then begin the process of forming a union for nurse practioners and physician assistants.


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26 Responses to NIH meeting: ‘We have to work together’

  1. Ickity March 4, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    In fact, there are indeed “clerks” at NIH that do make in excess of $23/hour. I worked there very long ago and was hired on with zero experience as a teenager at $12/hour. Spent 10 years there under Mr. Spencer and it was nice. Now it is every department for themselves the hell with how much more work it will create for any other department. Left there making $21/hour as a CLERK!

    • Past Clerk March 7, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

      Exactly, after TEN years you made it to $21, don’t you think after ten years you deserved that money (or more) and earned it?! It’s not like they are paying just anyone $20 to be a clerk. And yes you may not have had any credentials but ten years of experience has to count for something.

    • Current Clerk March 25, 2015 at 8:53 am #

      Ickity I will tell you as a CURRENT CLERK I do not make $21 an hour! I wish! I have been here 4 years and am no where close to that! I too was hired on with zero experience, but you might want to check your resources before making assumptions.

  2. Really Cindy? March 4, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Have you ever heard of cardiac enzymes Cindy? There are many other tests that physicians use in an emergent setting to determine if the patient is having a heart attack. A treadmill is a non-emergent diagnostic test when all else fails to prove the patient is having cardiac issues. Nurses, RT’s and ER techs can do twelve lead EKG’s. On top of that Paramedics do them before the patient even arrives at the hospital. Please stop trying to save your personal revenue stream and tell the truth. If the hospital needs to save money, clouding the issue is very unproductive.

  3. newJG March 2, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    Reality Check: I think an elephant weighs more than 800 pounds. Your pension comment is questionable and if it was so gold plated, why would nurses leave NIH? Though they do make more money in Mammoth. Nurses are notoriously kind at NIH-one disgruntled employee does not reflect the “reality”..

    • Reality Check March 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

      The reason nurses leave NIH are the working conditions and ow they are treated by admin and fellow employees.. Believe it or not, most nurses are not in it for the money. They do it because they can make a living helping people. Helping people is in their DNA.

  4. Ickity March 1, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    The nurses now do the EKG’s after hours, no one is sent home. Reality check is correct as well. I am not sure why a clerk needs to make $23/hour to push papers around while having no credentials what-so-ever. There are many things wrong at NIH, as well as many other places, both here and elsewhere.

    • Past Clerk March 2, 2015 at 9:20 am #


      I can tell you from experience, the NIH clerks do not make anything even close to $23 per hour.

      Also, clerks do MUCH more than just “push papers around”.

  5. Reality Check February 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    The 800 pound elephant in the room that no one is talking about is the gold standard benefit plan the NIH employees have. They have a defined beneft pension plan that no other hospital around has and their gold plated plan is over to 60% of the hospital budget I am told.

    Something else that is not mentioned is what can only be described as a culture of meanness at NIH where employees are mean to each other. I have a close friend who is a nurse and started working working at NIH many years ago. She told me that the spirt of non-cooperation between old nurses and new nurses was so bad she quit and went to work at Mammoth Hospital where everyone is treated with respect. When there is a problem in a department at MH, the CEO Gary Myers, will go work in that departement for a few days as a worker bee to find out what the core issues are so they can be addressed.

    My friend would rather drive 40 miles to Mammoth every day than work at NIH.

    Lastly, there must be a reason so many people from Bishop drive to Mammoth Hospital for surgery and other medical care.

    There is a lot more going on at NIH than most people know about.

  6. Trouble February 28, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    John D. I agree with. I have good reasons not to be a big fan of NIH that I clearly express my unkind views on before hand . But since I recently had a out patient surgery at NIH I realized more than ever that it’s not the nurse’s or staff that’s NIH weakness. It’s the lack a specialist and lack of good administrative proceeders put in place by the current Administration.

    The care I received during my surgery at NIH truly impressed me and took away many of my fears of NIH. But, NIH is really handicapped by the fact they can’t provide several types of critical care services .They need to focus on how to get the critically ill people the proper care they need ASAP. And stop focusing and minor issues like this one and their proudly displayed no smoking anywhere policy. Stop blowing smoke and save some lives.

    • Ken Warner February 28, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

      Trouble: I understand your concerns about the lack of specialists. Same here at Mammoth. Mammoth Hospital does great at broken bones and other orthopedic problems but things like ENT problems they just don’t have the staff.

      But that is understandable. Mammoth (and Bishop) are small towns with not enough patients to keep a specialist fully occupied. That’s why we all have to go to Reno. To see specialists. It’s not a failing of the hospital — it’s just the way things are.

      • Trouble March 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

        I agree Ken, but NIH needs to get people who may really need help to the proper help asap. I know of three people who damn near died because they were sent home, then nearly died. I’m one of those three.

      • Reality Check March 1, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

        Ken, the ENT doctor comes up once a month from southern California to Mammoth Hospital. He does surgery at Mammoth Hospital so there is no need to travel. The ENT doctor is exceptional. I know this first hand.

        • Ken Warner March 2, 2015 at 10:03 am #

          RC: Yes, I know. I also have first hand experience. He’s ok for somethings but not for everything. I go to Reno when I have a problem that needs to be addressed when the visiting ENT is not in town.

  7. John D February 27, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    I believe it is necessary to point out several inaccurate statements made by Mr. Case. Some of his statements are also insulting to the dedicated medical staff at NIH and add nothing to the ongoing discussion.

    Mr. Case implies that the medical staff at NIH are people with “small-town attitudes and vision” who are fighting “big-city standards and requirements”. This is false! A large number of the NIH medical staff have 20 – 30+ years experience working in the medical profession, not only in Bishop but in numerous other health care centers including the “big-city”. They are well versed in the “real healthcare world” Mr. Case refers to. Members of the medical staff are highly motivated, well-experienced professionals who strive to provide top notch medical care for NIH patients.

    It is not about fighting change by “outsiders”, as Mr. Case claims, it is about having a strong voice in patient care and the hospital environment in which they work. As I said before, NIH exists for one reason and one reason only, to provide the finest health care possible for NIH patients, period! Everything else is a distant second in importance.

    Mr. Case believes the medical staff should simply “stand down” and “embrace” what the Administration is attempting to do. I believe the Administration should stand up and utilize the extensive knowledge, experience and expertise the NIH medical staff will bring to the decision making process at NIH. It makes no sense to ignore such a valuable resource.

  8. Ickity February 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    Justin-you nailed it! The NIH staff has been treated very well ever since I was born there. Yet-the pay is through the roof! Examine the long standing policy of the ekg department receiving call back of over $27 EACH time they are called in, plus a minimum of one hour at time and one half for a 15 minute test. This went on for years until the new administrator ended it. She also ended the practice of staff being supervised by a family member. When a new nursing director came in and made sweeping and LEGAL changes, the nurses again were up in arms, stating it was not fair that the couldn’t eat at the nurses station and other beauties that were violations of state and federal laws. Now, they are upset because changes that should have happened 10 years ago are now being implemented. No-Bishop is not a big city, but tradition and they “way it’s always been done” do not float when they are costing the public money. Word from staff who come from those big city hospitals say that most people have no idea how good they have it at NIH.

    • John D February 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

      Ickity, I’m not sure what part of the world you come from, but as a small business owner, if I call an employee in, I am required to pay for a 4 hour minimum in wages. You claim $27 plus an hour and a half pay is excessive when someone is called back in?? I wish my business could get off so lucky! No wonder the Administration seems so out of touch with reality!

    • Confused February 28, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

      Finally someone is beginning to uncover the real issues. Current administration is looking at the whole picture. The good ole’ boys club is finally being exposed . How many organizations do you know in which one can directly work for their spouse? Have their yearly evaluations written by their spouse? The layers upon layers of unethical practices that were going on and the excessive pay practices have been exposed and they don’t like it. It’s unfortunate the NIH board did not change the venue to accommodate the increased attendance at the board meeting. This has completely overshadowed the most important part of the meeting. How come no one is asking about the audit results? What’s the bottom line? And just what exactly happened with those bonds?

    • Cindy March 1, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      $27 may be a small price to pay……

      I am one of those EKG techs that used to come in on-call. We would take call every third week, for the whole week. I would work from 7:30AM to 4PM, and then be on-call from 4PM to 7:30 AM, and all day Saturday and Sunday.

      We are no longer on call, so now when someone comes into ER on the weekend with chest pain, they are either flown out, sent home, or stay in the hospital until Monday – when a treadmill can be performed in the EKG Dept. This costs the patient (and/or their insurance) possibly THOUSANDS of dollars – paying for up to 3 days of added hospital stay to await a treadmill – not to mention delaying what may be a significant medical treatment decision. After performing the treadmill, the patient is either flown out or sent home.

      A patient is in the EKG Dept for 45 mins to 1 hour for a treadmill test, not to mention the paperwork and the calls that are performed by the EKG tech before and after the test. So the EKG tech is there for an hour or longer. And, an EEG is even longer. These two tests are no longer available after hours or on weekends.

      Being on-call was no picnic, by the way. Being called in in the wee hours and then reporting to work for a normal shift is not easy. Not to mention what one gives up in order to remain available at a moment’s notice. We had to report within 6 minutes of the call and perform an EKG within 10 minutes of the call.

      An EKG may only take a few minutes to perform, but again, you are missing the other tasks necessary in processing the paperwork, contacting doctors, pulling old EKG’s for comparison, etc.

      Some patient care has gone by the wayside through cancelling EKG call; it’s unfortunate that saving “$27” has eliminated the option to get these tests afterhours and on weekends. And the cost (possibly thousands!) is being passed on to the patient or their insurance.

      • Evenamonkeycandoit March 1, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

        So sorry Cindy….
        A treadmill stress test was never available after hours. Don’t mislead the public. Do you really think you are the only one qualified to do an EKG? Find another facility that pays on call wages for an EKG. Most facilities have RT or the ED tech do them. Or, hey, howabout this… The RN DOES IT!!!! This is exactly what happens now at NIH. And people are not flown out or kept in the hospital because EKG is not available on the weekends or after hours. The ED nurses or RT performs the EKG and the DOCTOR makes the disposition decision. And that disposition decision is based on a multitude of other tests besides an EKG. Care has actually been delayed while waiting for an EKG tech to respond from home. Check the standards of care for treatment of chest pain. Pretty sure it doesn’t include waiting for the EKG tech to respond from home to perform a test that just about anyone can be trained to do. Quit your whining about being on call. If it was ” no picnic” then you should be relieved that you no longer are required to do it. Unless, oh wait, it’s about the $27/hr you no longer get? Oh, that’s right… I forgot, ” it’s not about the money, it’s about pt. care.” Hardly……

        • cindy March 2, 2015 at 7:29 am #

          Treadmills and EEG were done after hours and weekends and are no longer

          available except during business hours. As far as being on call I would not go back to

          it, pt are kept in the hospital over the weekend to await a treadmill.

        • ilovebishop March 4, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

          Are you calling the RNs monkeys? I think you just proved many people’s points. – that the NIH administration treats people and talks about people as if they are trash, or monkeys.

        • susan dews March 4, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

          Evan a monkey can do it ? Well this kind of shows you how hospital employees are treated ? The mess at NIH has nothing to do with money.

  9. Joe February 27, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    Unless you work at NIH, you are shooting from the hip with your unsubstantiated claims. I am qualified to state that most care staff at NIH agree that changes are are/were necessary to adapt to the changing health care system. The methods by which these changes are being made has been a big point of contention, thus the reason RNs are taking protective action now. Whether or not the union talks are a “smoke screen” is speculative at this point but it is certainly necessary to investigate such things for the benefit of both patient care and the ability of the staff to deliver the best possible care for our rural area.

  10. Justin Case February 26, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    The meeting last night makes it clear to me that the “unionizing” activity at the hospital is nothing more than a smoke screen for a much bigger issue. There is a full-blown insurrection against the hospital senior leadership by a portion of the hospital employees who are in collusion with many of the doctors on the medical staff. I find this organized resistance against changes that are necessary to keep the doors open very offensive and risky to the future of the hospital.

    You can keep your small-town attitudes and vision if you like, but NIH is being judged by “big-city” standards and requirements and the state could shut the place down if NIH doesn’t measure up. I frequently hear “Things are different here, this is Bishop” as an excuse for not meeting the level of service, education and professionalism found in the rest of the country. The people of Bishop had better wake up and realize their hospital needs to keep up with the requirements of a modern healthcare system.

    Those of you fighting change brought here by “outsiders” in the NIH leadership should stand down and find a way to embrace the “new” standards that will keep the doors open. And those of you who’ve never worked anyplace else but NIH need to “get a grip” and do a little self-education. You might just realize there’s a real “healthcare world” out there far beyond the Bishop city limits where true professionals are accomplishing great things.

  11. John D February 26, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    I do not understand why the NIH Administration and Board have a problem allowing the RN’s to have a strong input regarding patient care and operation at NIH. The RN’s are the trained professionals who care for patients on a continual basis, they are the ones who have the 24/7 interaction with patients and are in the best position to address changes needed to improve patient care and maintain a professional health care system at NIH.

    NIH exists for one purpose, and one purpose only, to provide the best care possible for the members of our community with health needs requiring hospitalization, period! How much hands on interaction do members of the Administration or Board have with patients? Zero comes to mind. Nurses, doctors, technicians and other highly trained health care professionals at NIH are constantly on the front line and quality care for patients is what they strive to provide. They, are the primary and most necessary assets at NIH! I believe the Administration and Board have lost site of the real purpose for which NIH exists.


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