By Deb Murphy
Employee payroll at Southern Inyo Hospital will be caught up by December 23, according to board member Drew Wickman. That’s the board’s main focus following Thursday’s resignation of Chief Executive Officer Lee Barron.
“We’ll have to catch up in increments,” Wickman explained in a phone interview Friday. There are income tax issues that would take a major chunk out of one big paycheck, he said. By making the payments in increments, the deductions will be reflective of weekly paychecks. Over the past months, the hospital has been as much as three to four paychecks behind.
Following Thursday’s closed session board meeting, Wickman headed to Ridgecrest for a meeting with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital’s board and CEO Jim Suver. Suver was on site in Lone Pine Friday as an advisor, Wickman said “until we work out an agreement and details of the relationship.”
Barron had been working on a Limited Liability Corporation, creating a third entity so SIH, a public healthcare district, could develop a business relationship with Ridgecrest, a private hospital. But, Wickman said there are other and better ways to develop a long-term relationship with Ridgecrest Regional.
For now, SIH’s Rural Health Clinic and Skilled Nursing Facility are covered, Wickman said. The board has been discussion how to address the closure of the Emergency Room that took effect December 1. The goal is to get the closure plans rescinded for both the ER and the SNF, “but for now the focus is catching up with our employees,” Wickman said.
That goal was made easier with the December 10 deadline for property tax payments. The board has been in contact with County Auditor Amy Shepherd. “She said it was her fiduciary duty” to get SIH its part of property and parcel tax from district residents by December 15.
“The community has demonstrated how important this hospital is,” Wickman said and the board will include both residents and staff in the long-term planning process. “I think we’ll come out better and stronger.”
The Southern Inyo Healthcare District on Monday announced a special meeting of the Board of Directors for Tuesday, Dec. 15.
The closed session begins at 10 a.m. at the conference room at 501 E. Locust St., Lone Pine. The agenda item states the board will meet with legal counsel.