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Hospital’s attention shifts to cardio rehab

— With labor and delivery safe from being cut for the foreseeable future, Three Rivers Hospital medical staff has turned their concern to the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department.

Sparks flew during a special meeting Monday when Chief Executive Officer O.E. “Bud” Hufnagel said that he plans to speak to Confluence Health about taking over the cardiac rehab program as a means of saving money.

The hospital currently owes$2.8 million in warrants.

Commissioner Jerry Tretwold pushed to postpone the decision to end the program until the board’s Feb. 11 retreat, but was reminded that the board couldn’t legally take action because it was not listed on the agenda.

“Right now, we have doctors mad enough to all leave,” he said, echoing previous statements that they haven’t been involved in decision-making. “I see no rush. We’ve been floundering with the county forever. They’d rather see us get this hospital on its feet and be solid and money-making rather than just, every time something goes wrong in one way or another, cut departments until we’re down to a first aid MASH tent and that’ll be it.

“I’m scared that we’re going to lose this hospital if we do the shotgun approach and eliminate everything that’s losing money.”

Hufnagel had a strong reaction.

“We have never come at this in a haphazard way, in a loose way, a misdirected shotgun approach or anything that even approximates any part of that,” he said to Tretwold. “We’re not looking for opportunities to slice and dice the service portfolio of the hospital. That’s ridiculous. That’s absurd. And to sit here and say anything that even approximates that is totally disingenuous.

“We’ve got people here who have been working their butts off for over two years trying to figure out a way to keep this place going.”

He said he has met with each doctor at least once since early October to discuss the hospital’s situation, but Dr. Keith Hanson said all he was told in those meetings is what Hufnagel planned to do to cut services.

Hufnagel disagreed. In a later interview with The Chronicle, he said he began meeting with physicians as soon as Dr. Joseph Matel announced he would be leaving in December.

“We had never had any conversation about any of the scaling back or streamlining… until after Matel turned in his resignation,” Hufnagel said. “It took us to a point where for all intents and purposes we’ve got two family medicine doctors in town, and that’s it.

“At that point we had to call a time out and look at everything we’re doing.”

Regarding cardiac rehab, Hufnagel said he hopes to find a way to keep it running with the doctors’ help.

“The board is clearly divided, and instead of having a unified board that is trying to support the best interest of the hospital, we have board members who are trying to support personal taste and not what’s best for the hospital,” he said.

The board plans to review its finances in light of the cuts made this spring.

Monday’s meeting had an otherwise light agenda that included assigning committees for the commissioners, swearing in new commissioner Cherryl Thomas and saying farewell to outgoing Chairman Dan Webster.

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