Borrego Sun - Since 1949

BCHF: Community Group to the Rescue

 

Last updated 9/23/2020 at 10:01am



The Borrego Community Health Foundation (BCHF) on numerous occasions stated that expansion to multiple clinics and services was necessary to support the Borrego Springs Clinic. Borrego Springs, the original clinic was the golden goose that became the government ATM that grew Borrego Health to $336 million. Contrary to BCHF statements, the more money the Foundation has made, the more services and professionals decreased at the Borrego Clinic. BCHF should stand for “Big Cheat Healthcare Foundation.”

Drained, like other clinics to feed extravagant salaries, benefits, parties, expensive cars, and privileges going to a family-fraud fund, the Borrego Springs clinic continues to be denied the professional support and management needed to be a fully functioning healthcare provider. BCHF has proven it lacks both the will and expertise to operate the quality clinic needed and desired by Borregans.

However, the Foundation does have lots of ill-gotten funds, and owes Borrego Springs a debt, combining at least 10 years of failing to spend federal and state money as mandated on the clinic. Millions spent on self-aggrandizement and questionable investments that should have come to Borrego.

Now, it’s time for BCHF to pay Borrego for its flagrant abuse of funds intended for medical care. A great start would be funding and agreeing to a professional need’s assessment and budget for a new clinical center.

Locally, some seriously, qualified healthcare professionals have stepped up with recommendations, not just to save the clinic, and protect it from legal jeopardy the Foundation will eventually face, but to turn it into the type of first-class operation that fits local demographics.

A five-year business plan for the Borrego Springs Clinic, proposed by Dr. Carrolee Barlow, MD, PhD, former CEO of the Parkinson Institute and Clinical Center, comes with a realistic assessment of professional services needed in Borrego and recommendations for funding. Dr. Barlow is joined by a group of Borrego residents, and top-notch medical advisors such as Dr. Paul Teirstein, the Chief of Cardiology and Director of Interventional Cardiology for Scripps Clinic and director of the Scripps Prebys Cardiovascular Institute for Scripps Health.

Dr. Barlow, renowned leader in both health science, research and management, has voluntarily offered her services to the Foundation, and forwarded her recommendations to BCHF with a meeting in the offering. She brings something needed by the clinic, credibility in the medical community. In addition to her former position as CEO of the Parkinson’s Institute, she holds positions on the Board of Directors of several companies engaged in medical research and serves as Chief Medical Officer for a biotechnology company. Her academic career includes being on faculty at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California and working at the National Institute of Health with current director Francis Collins. For those unfamiliar with the NIH, this is the institute Dr. Anthony Fauci serves at.

The group’s recommendations designed around Borrego’s captive mix of seniors, vacationers, tourists, and low-income, underserved populations, calls for behavioral health, including nutritional support, social work, occupational and physical therapy, and enhanced pharmaceutical services to dispense emergency and specialty medications.

To realistically meet the needs of the Borrego Community, the group is proposing a physician mix of three-full time doctors, providing 24/7 coverage through a shared call schedule; a geriatrician, also trained in family practice or internal medicine; a board certified internal medicine physician; and a family practitioner with pediatrics qualifications. Clinical support includes, a RN administrator, senior experienced LVN, junior RN, and junior clerical person. Upgrades are needed for old and faulty equipment, like the EKG machine, with all supplies expected to have an annual inspection/certification. These are all basic, according to Dr. Barlow, who also recommends upgrading capabilities such as state of the art x-ray, acute onsite lab, appropriate bed and equipment to stabilize patients, and improved electronic health records with patient portal.

Unlike Borrego Health’s Chief Medical Officers’ inability to hire quality providers, despite paying far above standard salaries, the group has the professional credentials, connections, contacts, and credibility to attract competent personnel, within industry standard salary ranges, as well as potential donors.

The group is asking BCHF executives to agree to a contract to develop a five-year business plan to ensure a sincere commitment.

“It’s not just a matter of trust, although there is that, but a matter of letting professionals that created the plan implement the plan,” explains Dr. Barlow.

Clearly the Foundation lacks the credibility, which is trust earned through experience and performance, to pull together the type of team, the group envisions for Borrego’s clinic.

“Once the clinic gains credibility it will grow more local patients, who are privately insured, but who won’t use the clinic in its current state.”

BCHF’s record of professional experience has been found dismal and not improving. An executive team headed by family and friends, without any medical expertise or experience has led to the crisis in service that besets most of the clinics in the network.

For example, the new Chief Medical Officer (CMO) is an newly trained OBGYN doctor. He has great ideas for treating pregnant women. And that’s good, but his job goes well beyond treating women. This person is to oversee the recruitment, training and scheduling of qualified medical providers, in varying specialties for all 20 plus clinics. Past CMOs failed miserably at this job while drawing salaries of up to a million dollars. Who can honestly believe the new CMO will do better with so little experience?

Why the Foundation insists on paying a fortune for inexperienced people to fill positions requiring senior expertise, remains an unanswered question.

Just why would such high-powered professionals as Dr. Barlow care about Borrego’s clinic? For starters, Dr. Barlow and others have residences here, friends and professional connections.

The point is: Borrego, in this critical time of need, has some really terrific people willing to donate their time and expertise in the community’s healthcare needs.

The big question is: will Borrego Health consider the recommendations?

When Borrego had a chance in the past to address issues with the clinic, nothing happened. To many Borrego Sun readers, this latest investigative resurgence feels like Déjà vu. It’s a “here we go again,” in disclosures of the mismanaging and misappropriations of BCHF funds, and community discontent with the local clinic.

If this sounds like a rerun of issues raised in the past about the clinic and Foundation, it is. During the Foundation’s request to build a new administrative building in downtown Borrego and the concurrent survey critical of the clinic’s operations, the community expressed a desire for change. The 2015 Community Healthcare Survey found general all-around disappointment with the clinic, except for “Doctor Jan,” as many identified Jan Jones, the much-admired family nurse practitioner, who was fired in May.

During this period, the Sun’s Ellen Fitzpatrick, was exposing unpleasant facts about how the Foundation prioritizes private profit and abuses the federal and state funds it receives in violation of laws regulating non-profit health providers.

After a brief period of fire and furor, nothing changed. In fact, the clinic’s quality continued to decline and income for BCHF’s top executives and family relatives continued to climb. Seems like the town’s leadership caved, thought better of the battle, and chose to continue driving long distances to private medical providers they trust. Of course, those who can afford private insurance and top rate medical treatment can easily forget those forced to rely on the clinic’s services.

Lessons learned: When health problems are personal or involving a family member, there’s passion about medical quality and credibility. Those that can afford to pay get the best possible; those that can’t get BCHF. It’s time to create a clinic where those that can afford quality providers and those that cannot share equally in the Borrego Springs clinic services.

There are benefits to having superior health services in Borrego, beyond personal care. They include, attracting real estate sales, more vacationers and tourists, and even better employees that can be assured they can have the glorious isolation that is Borrego Springs, without giving up quality or emergency health care.

Second chances are rare occurrences. Borrego has one now, but the community must be engaged and fight for it. There’s new momentum for change. Keep it alive by supporting the recommendations under development by Dr. Barlow and the community.

Shockingly, BCHF Trustees were not aware of the clinic’s crisis in May, when the entire medical staff was fired, resigned, or MIA. The community needs to encourage them to stay on top of what’s happening, or not happening at the local clinic, as well as pay closer attention to how the executive team is placing all concerned in legal jeopardy. It could be said, with so many facts of corruption laid bare, those who have responsibility and remain silent are complicit, if not legally, certainly morally.

The people who need to hear Borrego residents expect better, legal, credible, and quality healthcare are BCHF executives: CEO Mikia Wallis, Dr. Alfredo Ratienwski, Mark Connelly, and Dan Anderson, chairman of the Board of Trustees. Contacting Borrego residents serving on the BCHF Board of Trustees is one way is to send the message demanding change. They are: Sandra Hansberger, Michael Hickok, David Hernandez and Martha Deichler.

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