I call shenanigans
May 29, 2019
I want to apologize for the paper being late last week.
Apparently the delivery driver felt it was unsafe for him to bring us our papers in a timely manner.
Don’t worry. I let the organization we have contracted with to both print and deliver our papers know that this was unacceptable.
Of course, this apology comes in a paper a day late by design.
Hopefully, the Memorial Day photo spread on the front page spread is worth the delay to you, our readers.
It has been said lately that I am “pro-HMS.”
Health Management Services is the organization called on to run the Saratoga Care Center when that facility went bankrupt a number of years ago and who currently runs the Platte Valley Clinic.
I don’t particularly feel that I am “pro anyone.”
My job as editor requires that I remain objective and provide the reader with factual accounts that are without bias or opinion.
As a matter of full disclosure, I am currently dating a nurse in the employ of HMS.
I did design the logo for the Platte Valley Clinic—and I was paid for that, too.
I do appreciate that when Karl Rude, president of HMS, was in town for talks to run the clinic, he stopped by the Saratoga Sun office to keep us abreast of events that were unfolding with those discussions. I even cautioned him about how much could be discussed in executive sessions with the Saratoga Town Council.
I have been a personal friend of Mark Pesognelli for years—long before he became the administrator of the Saratoga Care Center.
I do think the entire Valley community would benefit from the creation of a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), which, at this point, would likely be managed by HMS.
These things might make you think I am overly sympathetic to HMS.
If my girlfriend left HMS tomorrow (either voluntarily or not), that would be her concern. I would still have to deal as a professional with Mr. Rude and Mr. Pesognelli.
Paying me for a logo does not buy my loyalty.
Keeping me informed is nice, but that is not a coin that buys a whit of favoritism from me.
Mark and I still visit and share a drink or two in social settings, but that will not save him from being reported on if the news requires it.
As a matter of fact, I think the clinic is currently charging too much.
I went in for a physical recently and got stuck with a bill for $376. My insurance paid for $100 of that, but still, that seems excessive. One of my reporters took his kid into the clinic just to get him seen and got a bill for $200.
But to be honest, I have always thought medical bills are outrageous.
I have written pieces on new staff members at both the clinic and the nursing home. Sure, those are fluff pieces. I feel these articles’ purpose is to introduce new faces that will be serving the community to the people they will be seeing and, hopefully, helping.
I don’t usually dig too deep with these. If damning information surfaces later on, I will have to report that. I won’t personally like it, but that is not a consideration.
Writing on Healthcare
There are just a load of stories I have done on the state of medicine in the Valley including interviewing Dr. Kaiser and his staff, explaining the purpose of the Corbett Medical Foundation, detailing the financial failures of the previous clinic, chronicling the temporary clinic at the community center and the takeover of the Corbett Building for the new clinic.
Eventually, all this culminated in the perceived necessity of examining how to sustain medical services in the Valley.
I ended up writing on the meetings the Healthcare Sustainability Project Subcommittee (HSPS) has held in investigating whether or not a CAH is a good idea.
I have covered a bunch of those, too, and have tried to be fair in my writing.
I have done graphics explaining the financial flows—both current and expected money flows—but that is more about wanting to simplify explanations for you and win a graphics award for me.
My cards are on the table.
When I write about concerns I have with the current state of affairs the mayor has fostered, I hope you understand these are not personal attacks, but statements of fact.
Saratoga Mayor John Zeiger’s wife used to work for HMS.
She no longer does, and I do not wish to report on any reason why. It’s just not important.
What concerns me most is the ways a possible resentment seems to be playing out.
Texts and Emails
In a text to clinic administrator Mark Pesognelli earlier this year, the mayor wrote:
“Mark the town has waved the rent at the clinic so far and then we get a bill for 206.00 for dispatch physical with 2 more coming seems there could be a little professional courtesy.”
I pay my bills. Seems like the town could, too. And what does that have to do with the town supporting the clinic?
In an April 1 email Zeiger wrote:
First wanted to say thank you for allowing Heidi to leave the clinic to assist me on a call today where the patient was near death she made a big difference.
However I was disappointed to learn after meeting with Mark today that you can’t provide assistance on ambulance calls anymore unless SCHWEMS can pay the hourly rate in which you pay Heidi, and that $6 dollars an hour wasn’t enough to cover allowing her to leave the clinic.
Where my disappointment lies is that you assured me that HMS wanted to be involved to be sure that the citizens of the valley are taken care of and that helping cover the ambulance was away you could give back to the community. The county allows me to leave my job and when we get dispatch back to the number of employees that we need then we will be letting a dispatcher help cover calls as well. Neither the county or the town expects SCHWEMS to pay the hourly rate for us to respond to a call.
Sadly as Mayor I can no longer support the critical care facility moving forward. In saying this I am not speaking for the council but only as Mayor
Mayor John Zeiger”
First off, I find it amusing someone who rides on the ambulance cannot correctly spell SCWEMS.
Secondly, John Zeiger has NO standing with SCWEMS to negotiate any arrangement with HMS.
When Rude showed up at the April 9 SCWEMS meeting in Riverside, board members and SCWEMS president John Rutherford were surprised to hear about previous frustrating negotiations and were very receptive to what HMS needed to continue supporting the ambulance service.
Lastly, to use the position of mayor in this way is kind of disingenuous.
The mayor has seemed to undermine HMS during recent town council meetings.
He had the town attorney review the lease on the Ray A. Corbett Medical Building with what appears to be intent to terminate the agreement.
Fortunately, the council did not agree.
A week later the town clerk, at the direction of the mayor, informed clinic operators that the matter of the lease would not be discussed at the May 21 town council meeting.
Instead, the 2-minute time limit for outside speakers mysteriously disappeared and a member of Memorial Hospital of Carbon County (MHCC) was invited, at the mayor’s behest, to present MHCC’s ideas on taking over the clinic.
Though Saratoga Sun reporters were told this was coming days in advance, half the council was not informed at all.
Besides the 2-minute speaking limit not being in effect for the meeting, the MHCC speaker was not on the agenda at all.
This kind of practice is deceptive and definitely not the transparency put forth in Zeiger’s mayoral campaign.
I don’t personally dislike Mr. Zeiger. Most of the time I think he is a sincere type. I was the guy who started the petition to have him reinstated when he was relieved of his position with the police department. I did that because I believed in him and I stood before that town council with my list.
John and I held a pool table for several hours one night by winning one game after another as a team.
So, no, I don’t have a problem with John Zeiger the man.
I AM starting to have serious doubts about John Zeiger the mayor.
It is my hope that further shenanigans can be avoided and the best interest of Saratoga comes to the forefront in town hall discussions.