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Executive Session Drives Hospital Board Meeting

Most of the Territorial Hospital Board’s monthly meeting was taken up by a variety of subjects tackled in an executive session Wednesday. Boards hold these secret sessions to discuss items that may compromise personal privacy rights or should be withheld from the public to avoid premature disclosure of an action or proposed action.

Chief executive officer of the Schneider Regional Medical Center Tina Comissiong talks about work at the hospital with territorial board members. (WEBEX screenshot)

While Chair Christopher Finch said there were no decisions or actions taken, there were discussions about a variety of subjects starting with settling vendor debt according to the guidelines from the V.I. Attorney General’s Office. Finch said they might have to set up a separate budget to deal with it.

The board also discussed the Office of the Inspector General’s report, which found fault with some of the board and administrative practices. Finch said many of the issues have been dealt with or are in the process of being corrected. He also pointed out that there was a large number of administrators and board members serving during the audit periods, which was one of the IG’s complaints.

Finch said the board also discussed the hospitals’ responsibility to continue to serve dialysis patients on both islands – outpatients as well as visitors.

There was also discussion on the search for permanent fiscal officers for both hospitals and responding to the upcoming Public Employees Relations Board’s hearing on the hospital’s rollout of the vaccine mandate.

When the board rose out of executive session, the chief executive offices of each hospital reported about activities at their respective facilities.

CEO Doug Koch said the labor and delivery unit at Juan F. Luis Hospital remains closed pending the results of an air quality test. When they receive the report and make any corrections needed, the patients and staff will be moved back, he said. The department was closed last week after staff reported itchy eyes and trouble breathing.

Doug Koch, JFL chief executive officer, reports to the territorial board. (WEBEX screenshot)

Koch also announced replacements for chief financial officer and legal counsel at the St. Croix hospital, Rosemary Javois, for the former position and attorney Patricia Welcome for the latter. He also talked about activities during the upcoming hospital week.

The JFL chief executive and Schneider Regional Medical Center’s CEO mentioned the financial and staff strain of dealing with “boarder” or “unsafe discharge” patients. Koch said boarders account for 30 percent of the hospital’s inpatient beds, and Tina Comissiong, SRMC’s chief, said there are nine such patients in the St. Thomas hospital that cost the facility $5 million a year.

Comissiong also talked about staff shortages, especially in the intensive care unit and emergency room. Hopefully, she said, the V.I. Office of Management and Budget will approve collective bargaining and negotiations with three nurses’ unions soon.

“That will help us get and keep the very nurses we need on board,” she said.

The board also approved three physicians for two-year appointments and 11 for one-year appointments (10 for teleradiology) at the JFL hospital. They also voted for three physicians for two-year service contracts at the St. Thomas hospital.

Attending the virtual meeting were Finch, Dr. Jerry Smith, Jenifer O’Neal, Dr. Anne Treasure, Dr. Frank Odlum, Faye John-Baptist, Bosede Bruce, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion, and Marise James.

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