For the second meeting in a row the Southeast Health Planning Task Force (SEHPTF) and hierarchy of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital (IMVH) and Inova Health System (IHS) appeared to be on different and contradictory wave lengths when it came to involving officials of IHS in the Task Forces' meeting. That also applied to future hospital growth plans thought to have been a done deal.
"Our role is to represent the community. We are here to make sure IMVH is a real part of the Inova system," Anne Andrews, chair, SEHPTF, told Mark Stauder, chief operating office, IHS. Stauder made a cursory visit to the meeting to introduce himself having only joined IHS in the past seven months.
However, it was apparent from his remarks that Stauder had been well briefed on the controversy between the Task Force and IMVH administrator and CEO Barbara Doyle that flared during the group's January meeting. At that time Doyle adamantly resisted having other IHS representatives at the meeting noting that as the hospital's CEO she would be the primary link to IHS.
During that previous confrontation Andrews pointed out that Rod Huebbers, IHS executive vice president, had promised to attend Task Force quarterly meetings when he first joined IHS. He has not done so for nearly a year.
At the close of the January meeting Andrews had emphasized that she expected Huebbers at this meeting along with Stauder. The request for the latter was merely to familiarize him with the Task Force's mission and to meet the members. That is exactly what was accomplished last Thursday night since Stauder left within the first 30 minutes of the meeting's commencement.
However, prior to his departure he made clear his total support for Doyle and, by implication, the need for only her presence at Task Force meetings representing IHS. Without any reference to the prior meeting Stauder initiated his support for Doyle's claim that she was the only necessary contact with IHS.
"My philosophy is to hire great people and my message is that Barbara is the leader in this region. I have 100 percent confidence in her," Stauder said.
"I'm here to help her but not to get in her way. I'm here to support the community and the health care system. I will do that with Barbara. I will not do that in front of Barbara," Stauder told Task Force members.
"We want to make sure this hospital remains here and becomes even better. We are part of the Inova system but we want to be sure we get our fair share of the capital dollars being spent by IHS," Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, in whose office conference room the meeting took place, told Stauder.
ONCE AGAIN Huebbers, who provides strategic planning oversight for Inova Mount Vernon and Alexandria hospitals, was conspicuous by his absence. As noted by Andrews last Thursday night, "When he first came to IHS he assured us he would attend our meetings. I do expect Rod to come to our meetings. We would like to set our meetings according to Rod's and Barbara's schedules."
"It would be nice if Rod came to these meeting every now and then," Hyland added.
Prior to becoming IMVH's administrator, Doyle had worked for Huebbers in New England when he was a hospital administrator. During the January confrontation between the Task Force and Doyle she informed them that although Andrews had invited Huebbers to the meeting she had "asked Rod not to come" in order to emphasize her role as the prime IHS contact for IMVH.
"I'm encouraging Rod and Mark not to attend. It is my job to speak for Mount Vernon hospital. And, it is my job to leverage for Inova Mount Vernon Hospital with Inova Health System," she told the Task Force in January which brought forth a near unanimous disagreement from those Task Force members present.
"The decision as to whether this hospital will exist in the future will be made at the top IHS Board level. I think we need to have them at this table to hear us. Their presence is essential. Inova has to hear from us themselves — not just from you," Hyland told Doyle in January.
HYLAND'S POINT took on particular meaning later in the meeting when Doyle revealed that the planned increase in private rooms would not take place in the near future. "Why are we waiting for private rooms? How long ago did we talk about this? I thought the matter was settled," Hyland said.
When he asked how many private rooms were planned, Doyle said, "I can't answer that. But I can say this hospital will never be all private rooms. It's a very complex issue to close down a portion of the hospital to make the conversion."
Many of the proposed private rooms were to have been part of a new tower to be constructed at IMVH. As Dr. Khosrow Matini, a member of the Task Force, pointed out, "The only way to add private rooms is to add rooms. Otherwise, they merely become converted to semi-private when no one is looking."
"When we talk about private rooms we need to know exactly what we are talking about. Is the tower still in IHS's planning process?" Hyland asked Doyle.
"No. That is a $70 million project. It's not on the table," Doyle said after revealing that the hospital loss for 2006 was $1.6 million. However, she noted, a $1.9 million loss had been budgeted.
Assessing the hospital future, State Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43) asked if any communications were going on with Fort Belvoir relative to a partnership between IMVH and the planned expansion of DeWitt Army Hospital, part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Report.
"No. I've tried to contact [the Army] but they have been unresponsive," Doyle said.
"I think there has been a disinclination by the Army at the top levels to work with IMVH," Hyland said. "The Army still prefers to work alone rather than with others," added Task Force member George Barker, representing the Virginia Health Systems Agency.
On a positive note, Hyland pointed out that IMVH is at the top of IHS's list for quality. "Things at the hospital have definitely changed for the better," he said.
Improvements noted by Doyle included: An increase in the nursing staff allowing each nurse to cover no more than four or five patients; two new surgeons will be added to the staff in July; and the Joint Replacement Center has increased its volume with a healing rate of 94.6 percent based on 11 weeks of treatment.