Press release

Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Board of Directors unanimously approved hiring additional support staff for the Rural Health and Pediatric clinics during its Nov. 16th regular board meeting.

This expansion will improve efficiency at the clinics and allows NIHD to keep pace with recent growth at the clinics.

Kevin S. Flanigan, MD MBA, the district’s Chief Executive Officer, said the move is an additional investment in improving patient access to health care.

“This will enhance efficiency so that people won’t be waiting days or weeks for their prescriptions to be refilled,” Dr. Flanigan said. “It provides the ability to make sure that needed labs or x-rays are done before a patient comes in for an office visit. It eliminates repetitive visits because we weren’t able to do the administrative portion of care delivery. Greater efficiency gives us the chance to ensure that people are adhering to their care plan and gives them an opportunity to see us less.”

Within the next six months, NIHD will hire up to four Medical Assistants, two Registered Nurses, plus a Front Office Coordinator for the Rural Health Clinic and an Office/Clinical Coordinator for the Northern Inyo Associates Pediatrics Clinic.

“We had a growth in the number of providers, but the lack of growth among the support staff was beginning to impact our ability to deliver care,” Dr. Flanigan said.

The CEO explained that industry standards call for between two-and-three-quarters to three-and-half support staff per provider. Presently the two clinics, with a total of 13 providers, have between 20 to 24 support staff members at any given time, placing the clinics at roughly 60 percent of needed staffing.

Dr. Flanigan said not every position will be filled immediately, but the Medical Assistant roles are a priority.

“Presently, we have days where as many as eight or nine providers are scheduled to see patients, yet we only employ six Medical Assistants to fill a six-day a week schedule. Under that scenario, there is no way a patient, or for that matter the provider or the staff, is going to have a good experience on those days.”

The unbudgeted annual cost for the new positions is estimated to be between $390,000 and $550,000, depending on experience of the new hires.

With NIHD at the midpoint of its fiscal year, the cost for to the District for the next few months would run between $125,000 and $225,000. The move coincides with NIHD’s Strategic Plan, which calls for a focus on improving both patient and employee experience.

Board member John Ungersma, MD, agreed with Dr. Flanigan’s overview and urged his fellow directors to approve the request.

“We picture NIHD as providing care, but we have to provide access as well,” Dr. Ungersma said. “Nothing amounts to any higher priority than we hire these staff members, so people do have access to care.”

In expressing his gratitude to the board, RHC Medical Director, Stacey Brown, MD, looked to the future. “We’re on the brink of another evolutionary chapter of outpatient care in this community,” he said. “To get the doctors is one thing, to get the providers is one thing, but to have support and make it that much more efficient is positioning ourselves quite well for the changes in health care that are coming down the pipeline.”

In other board news:

• Dr. Flanigan updated the board on NIHD’s efforts to overcome a recent State Board of Pharmacy violation that could have put the hospital’s compounding pharmacy license in jeopardy. The state board renewed NIH’s license for one year after the hospital made significant efforts to bring its pharmacy into compliance with venting and paint regulations.

NIH’s installation of a new prefabricated, modular compounding room unit should meet the Jan. 1 deadline. However, Dr. Flanigan said the state board would not be able to complete an on-site survey for three to six months due to a backlog of pending facility reviews.

NIHD has requested a waiver which will allow pharmacists to continue compounding infusion treatments including chemotherapy. Other area pharmacies have indicated that they will no longer offer compounding services, making NIH the only pharmacy offering the service in the Eastern Sierra.

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