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Coast healthcare district board discusses website, minutes

A mix of yellow, orange, and white wildflowers, growing close to the ground among native California grasses.
Coastal wildflowers

The Mendocino Coast Healthcare District Board of Directors spent the better part of an hour and a half talking about how the draft minutes from last year's meetings got posted to the new website without full board approval. Then they discussed a proposed letter to Anthem about its negotiations with Adventist Health.

August 1, 2022 — At last week’s meeting of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District Board, directors discussed a new website, last year’s minutes, and a letter concerning the possibility of Adventist hospitals no longer taking Anthem insurance.

With a packed agenda, one member of the public expressed her gratitude for the board’s attentive demeanor. “A few of us have actually placed bets on whether Mr. Redding would be playing his guitar while he thought he was on mute again,” said Jenny Shattuck. “Because we found this, and his actions just beyond disturbing, that the board was literally discussing the future of our ambulance, and the future of our healthcare.”

Objections to directors’ conduct was not limited to members of the public. This became clear with Directors John Redding and Sara Spring expressed differing points of view about who was responsible for preparing last year’s minutes, which appeared on the new website without full board approval. “Director Spring’s position is that she was unwilling or unable to do the minutes,” Redding stated; “and furthermore that she did want anyone else to do the minutes; that any such attempt was illegitimate.” As Spring attempted to interrupt, Redding added, “Those minutes are eighteen months old. I’m not finished!” he exclaimed, as Spring shouted, “John, I will say to you again: I never got the zooms. You had them. I did not. I’m not gonna let you sit here and say I didn’t do something I could not do.”

Chair Jessica Grinberg shed some light on the migration of the website, and how the minutes ended up there without board approval. “The minutes isn’t the point,” she objected, breaking into her colleagues’ discussion. “The point is the migration of the website, of what was in the past to the current, and during the migration, items were added that hadn’t been brought towards the board yet, or voted on, and the integrity of our new migration put the cart before the horse because items were submitted to the public, not noted as draft, not vetted through us, but was posted…but I’m just acknowledging that our migration had some missteps.”

The old website redirected users just as they were looking for the agenda and the link to the meeting. Some reported difficulties, some said it was easy to find, and one member of the public requested that the entire board resign over a special meeting that may or not have been noticed properly. The root of the confusion was not immediately known, but Grinberg said “It may be a payment issue. I recall, we’re due to pay that domain.”

The board decided to pull the minutes from the website, which led to community input about the parliamentary procedure. When Malcolm MacDonald inquired after the board’s policy on taking public comment about the minutes, Grinberg told him the board does not. “Wow,” MacDonald replied. “Just wow.”

One member of the public suggested creating a dedicated zoom link for board meetings at the new website. “I go crazy, looking for zoom links,” she explained.

Redding inquired after the speaker’s name, and she said, “Hello. Chess on Tuesday. Name: Chess. Last name: on Tuesday.”

“Chess. As in the game, chess?” Redding inquired, whereupon Chess on Tuesday obliged him by spelling it out.

After an hour and a half, the board wrapped up the discussion about the website and the minutes. WIthout further ado, they moved on to the topic of a letter, drafted by Redding, about the negotiations between Adventist and Anthem. Judy Leach, the president of Adventist Health Mendocino Coast, gave a few hints about the negotiations. “We are not choosing to terminate,” she said. “It’s just the contract that has now come up for renewal needs further conversations. It is one negotiation. There are different rates that are happening, actually, even per market. So that’s why we are discussing rates with them. I don’t have details about what that looks like, but I will tell you it is one negotiation that’s going on. There are different rates in different areas.”

The letter under discussion laid out the financial hardship that would ensue if the hospital stops accepting insurance from Anthem.

The final sentence stated that if the negotiations are not successful, “the Board of Directors would like to immediately begin talks with Anthem for the purpose of creating a one-year exception for our remote community, recognizing that our circumstances differ significantly from other hospitals and clinics in the Adventist Health Network.”

This passage in particular drew the ire of Jade Tippett, a member of the public. “The tone of this letter is wrong,” he began. “I agree with the chair that it is appropriate for the board to write a letter supporting Adventist in the negotiation. But I’ve done negotiations, a lot of them. And if a subset of the organization that I was representing came in looking for a side deal, it would totally undercut the negotiation that I was doing. And that’s what this letter is doing. It’s asking for a side deal for the hospital in the middle of the negotiations. It’s utterly inappropriate.”

The board agreed to have Grinberg and Director Amy McColley modify the letter and bring it back to the full board.

The hospital and the insurance provider were originally planning to renew their contract by mid-July, but granted themselves a two-week extension.

The extension expires today.

Local News
Sarah Reith is the lead reporter for KZYX News. She joined the KZYX News team in 2017, and covers local politics, water, law enforcement and the arts in Mendocino County.