HCCA reports should have ‘no impact’ on SIH

By Deb Murphy

Within four days of taking their seats on the Southern Inyo Healthcare District board of directors, Richard Fedchenko, Mark Lacey and Jaque Hickman made the decision to contract with Healthcare Conglomerate Associates to bring the Lone Pine hospital back to life.


The trio negotiated the contract with HCCA head Dr. Benny Benzeevi at a day-long public meeting in the middle of the holidays. Three months later, the hospital was officially re-opened and staffed.

So far, so good, but it would be disingenuous to assume breathes weren’t being held and fingers not crossed.

Then, late last week, news of a conflict on the other side of the mountain, in Tulare where HCCA has been managing the Tulare Regional Medical Center, surfaced.

According to the county’s Grand Jury Preliminary Report, the facility’s expansion, financed through an $85 million bond in 2005, is still not finished and the district’s board has been anything but transparent about how the money’s been spent despite requests from the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.

HCCA, Benzeevi and Assemblyman Devon Mathis were dragged into the bad publicity fray as were the details of HCCA’s management contract with the Tulare facility, including an option for HCCA to purchase the TRMC.

Was this the other shoe Southern Inyo residents had hoped wouldn’t drop?
“I am confident this has no impact on Southern Inyo Hospital,” said SIHD Board President Fedchenko. “We don’t have to worry.”

During a phone conversation, Fedchenko said he had talked with his board as well as Benzeevi and Chief Restructuring Officer Allan Germany. “This does not impact us or our relationship with HCCA. Our contract (with HCCA) is different that the Tulare contract. As a matter of fact, it’s very different than the original contract (HCCA first presented). At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple. A monthly fee covers HCCA and there are no options to buy.”

Fedchenko also noted the district’s attorney Scott Navae “did a good job” vetting SIH’s contract with HCCA.

While the issues raised by the Grand Jury date back to 2007, HCCA did not enter into the contract with Tulare until mid-2014. HCCA released a statement in response to the Grand Jury’s preliminary report indicating the district board “will conduct a thorough investigation and prepare a formal response to the report.”

Mathis and SIH were mentioned in reports by Valley Voice and the CV Observer. According to the reports, Mathis was asked to request an audit through the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. Mathis declined, according to the reports, citing a “favor” he owed Benzeevi. The favor was Southern Inyo Hospital. Mathis’ office denied the allegations.

Interestingly, e-mails flew from Tulare to the Owens Valley to make sure locals knew what was going on. The Sierra Wave’s e-mail came from the Tulare County Democratic Party. Mathis isn’t a Democrat. Another, sent to a Lone Pine resident, came from a former member of the California Assembly who is backing Mathis’ opponent in the primary.

The SIH board meets this Thursday at 5 p.m. at Statham Hall.


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11 Responses to HCCA reports should have ‘no impact’ on SIH

  1. Joseph Oldenbourg May 6, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    I strongly urge all of you there over the mountains from us who are concerned about SIH to research what HCCA is doing/has done at TRMC. Visit http://www.ourvalleyvoice.com to see what we’ve reported. It will be like looking into the future.

    • Susan May 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

      I have been following TRMC, which is why I have risked my job here at SIH and speaking up. The board of directors here seem to be the perfect mark, for HCCA to take advantage of. HCCA is filtering/loaning money to finance SIH, it certainly makes no basic business sense. At some point this note will come due, what then? I’m trying to figure out HCCA motivation, PR, tax write off, or something more calculated? BTW, a few pennies off balancing my checkbook is an oversight, millions of dollars is something different.

      • Joseph Oldenbourg May 7, 2016 at 11:32 am #

        Keep your eye on Devon Mathis. He refused to ask for an audit of TRMC because he said he owed a favor to Benzeevi regarding SIH.

  2. Susan May 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    The truth needs to be told! SIH past and present Board of Directors have failed the community and former CEO: a collection of self proclaimed community leaders who meet once a month to offer their wisdom. These Board members are part-timers with neither the knowledge nor the incentive to learn how hospitals like this are funded. I’ve been in Health Care longer than I care to admit, I’m well aware of how state budget cuts and state reimbursements, have effected rural hospitals like SIH. Many similar rural hospitals have closed their doors because of this.

    The former Board of Directors made several bad decisions, which brought SIH to its knees financially (including the dismissal of a local Doctor, and closure of ER) leaving the hospital no source of income at all. Contrary to what the community was led to believe, against the CEO recommendation, she was forced to enforce that boards decisions.

    After that, one of the current board members was instrumental in organizing a “town meeting”, which was nothing short of a public hanging for CEO of ten years. I was amazed how many people showed up for this spectacle. The former board made no effort to take responsibility for their actions, simply slouched in their chairs. It was implied former CEO walked out of the meeting, when accused of denying services. This accusation could’ve only be addressed by disclosing patient confidentiality. The hospitals financial transparency and records are public information, you just have to ask. I found them in perfect order, up until December 2015 anyway. You can refer to Oct. 28, 2015 article by Sierra Wave, to clearly see who was in charge of the theatrics and what transpired.

    The former CEO was dedicated to this hospital and would not have jumped ship, it’s common knowledge here that she was forced to resign by former board to save their own face. A few days later the former board cowardly resigned, all within an hour of each other. In true LP fashion, despicable rumors and accusations against CEO were quickly spread, in order to take focus off the real issues, by the former board President and current Board of Directors. Five months later, they still continue their unethical practices.

    One thing we all have in common, is to keep SIH doors open. The question remains, will the hospitals issues caused by state and federal reimbursements change in the near future? Probably not. Is the current board and HCCA running the hospital a positive move? No, so far the facility has taken a huge step backward (at least ten years).

    Having investigated the facts for myself, I’m ashamed to be employed by SIH and being part of this community. I wish the best to my friends burned by this display of stupidity, I know you’ve all successfully moved on and put this community behind you.

    I guess it’s true, you can never come home again.

    “I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”
    ― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

  3. Karen Rotchstein April 30, 2016 at 5:35 am #

    On going graft in Inyo County. It is an established pattern.

  4. Susan April 29, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    I’m happy to see that Sierra Wave has taken an interest in SIH, no other local media has. Seems the community tax dollars will pay back the loan to HCCA, leaving the balance to keep our doors open for a few more weeks. This will not be easy considering the amount of monies reimbursed by SIH to HCCA and their associates they’ve brought on board, salaries and travel expenses. The current Board of Directors has an obligation to make sure a monthly report is available to the public, this is our hospital. It’s rumored that $20,000 month is paid for an outside company to handle Human Recourses (clearly an affiliate of HCCA), this person appears two or three times a month.

  5. Susan April 28, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    Perhaps, Matt Kingsley could shed some light on Devon Mathis. Kingsley was instrumental in bringing Mathis on board, who introduced HCCA to current SIH board.

    • Joseph Oldenbourg April 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

      The Valley Voice has printed several articles on Devon Mathis, and I invite you to peruse our website. Further, you can email me if you have unanswered questions.

    • Rusty May 8, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

      Follow the money……

  6. Susan April 28, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    I am an employee of Southern Inyo Hospital, I will not give my name for fear of loosing my job. I wonder if Board President, Mr. Fedchenko, could explain the fact that HCCA has “loaned” SIH a substantial amount of money? Apparently, the hospital will pay back the loan. However, HCCA has made no effort in their “management” of the facility to ensure the hospital will be able to pay it back.

    We have no positive leadership from HCCA and are afraid to question why.

  7. Joseph Oldenbourg April 26, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    My name is Joseph Oldenbourg, and I’m the editor/publisher of the Valley Voice. Thus far–and so far as I know–Devon Mathis has not refuted these allegations. His chief of staff, Sean Doherty, tried to call us out on our website–but he used a phony name, “Steve.” You can read the entire story, and others about Mathis at http://www.ourvalleyvoice.com. Join the conversation!


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