Time for some transparency from Oroville Hospital
You can’t blame the citizens of Oroville and surrounding Butte County communities for having a lot of questions about the future of Oroville Hospital.
It’s too bad the people who run the hospital aren’t showing much interest in providing any answers.
In just the past two months, there have been two bombshell reports involving the hospital, both written by Kyra Gottesman — a longtime contributor to the Oroville Mercury-Register, and someone who truly has her fingers on the pulse of the community.
The first, published in this newspaper Dec. 20, reported that general contractors for the Oroville Hospital tower expansion project are concerned about the hospital’s ability to pay for the multi-million dollar project — and frustrated by the hospital’s lack of transparency in responding to their requests for proof of financial capability.
In that episode, Oroville Hospital initially agreed to answer our questions about ModernSundt’s request and concerns if the questions were provided in writing. After complying with that request, providing the questions in an email to Robert Wentz, Oroville Hospital president and CEO, the hospital then declined to comment.
The hospital received $200 million in bonds in February 2019 to fund the project, which the hospital said would cost $178 million.
Originally, the project was slated to be completed in April 2022 and that date was pushed back to fall 2022. The completion date has since been moved to November 2023.
A Nov. 23, 2022 letter from the contractor requested evidence of the hospital’s financial ability to pay for the project. The Nov. 23, letter stated that “Modern-Sundt (now) has a reasonable concern that in the near future, Oroville (Hospital) will be unable to make payment to Modern-Sundt when due.”
The hospital did not respond to the Nov. 23, 2022 letter, according to the contractor, prompting a third letter dated Dec. 13, 2022, obtained by this newspaper, again demanding evidence of the hospital’s ability to fund the project.
The letter concluded with a request for a meeting with Oroville Hospital, OroHealth Corporation, the Oroville city attorney, Modern-Sundt and counsel. As of this writing, that meeting has not happened.
So that’s one concern. Then, earlier this month, area residents were again rocked by reports that Oroville Hospital was closing its home health department.
In a Sunday, Feb. 12 story in this newspaper, Gottesman reported that Golden Valley Home Health employees confirmed that Feb. 10 was the last day the Oroville Hospital home health services business would be open.
Golden Valley Home Health employees said they were verbally notified of the business’s closing in a meeting on Jan. 27. Employees said they were told the reason for the closure was because “home health was not profitable.”
We began calling Wentz on Jan. 30 about the home health clinic and tried between one and three times a day through Feb. 6. We were repeatedly told he was either “unavailable” or “in a meeting.” Finally, on Feb. 6, we were told to contact Shanna Roelofson, director of human resources and marketing, to get our questions answered. We provided a list of questions, and she said she needed to run them through the “process” and would get back to us. She never did, even though we continued to call daily through Feb. 9.
Employees wouldn’t speak to us on the record either, but that’s understandable. They’re worried about being able to find a job elsewhere in the company following the closure of the home health clinic.
The people really hurt by this are, of course, the citizens that Home Health was supposed to be serving. Employees expressed concern for their patients, especially those who live in outlying areas citing Berry Creek as one of the communities “not served by other home health agencies.”
“Depending on their location or type of medical coverage, some patients may find themselves without options for home health services,” said one Golden Health employee.
We’re curious what the people who operate the hospital have to say about this. And, we remain curious about what they have to say about the future of the hospital, period. Rumors are running wild.
Ignoring requests for comment from news organizations generally falls under the “if we ignore the media, maybe they won’t report the story” philosophy. Inevitably, it’s the worst possible decision and shows a galling lack of concern for the community. It leads to further conjecture and well-founded concerns about what in the world is going on, and what might be the next shoe to drop.
It’s safe to say the hospital owes a lot of money for the tower expansion project. But even that pales in comparison to what administration owes the community: Honesty, and transparency.