Hospital partnership with Regional Health Network made official

Ultimately, it’s patient first, says Timothy Sughrue, RHN

By Sarah Pridgeon

Crook County Medical Services District (CCMSD) made official its partnership with Regional Health Network (RHN) at September’s regular meeting of the Board of Trustees. As part of the ongoing work to improve efficiency at the Sundance hospital and clinic, the Board of Trustees may also seek the advice of a consultancy firm on how to streamline services and will shortly be applying for a $600,000 loan from the State Land Investment Board.

Under the terms of the new partnership, RHN will provide supporting services to CCMSD, including help with staffing as well as provision of specialists in areas such as accounting, pharmacy, nursing and personnel. The aim of the partnership is to stabilize and enhance management and leadership throughout CCMSD facilities and to develop staffing levels.

In return for a monthly fee of $2,500, RHN will also be involved in administrative supervision, annual audits, budgeting, financial statements, policies, contracts, supplies and purchasing. A candidate search for a new CEO will begin immediately, according to Timothy Sughrue, CEO of RHN, and Glenn Bryant, COO, both of whom were in attendance at the meeting in order to confirm the agreement.

Sentator Ogden Driskill, also in attendance, commented that this was “a great first step” with the potential to make Sundance hospital a better place, and that the agreement will herald “a golden time” for CCMSD.

The Board of Trustees also discussed the upcoming application for a loan of $600,000 from the State Land Investment Board. This loan, according to Board Member Bruce Brown, will serve as a “line of credit,” providing a “buffer in case of emergency” that can be drawn on to reduce the pressure of crisis management.

A decision will be made at the October meeting of the board to apply for the loan at the next regular meeting of the State Land Investment Board. On the recommendation of Senator Driskill and the County Commissioners, part of the loan may be used to hire a management firm to survey current working practices within the hospital.

Sandra Reid, representing consulting firm B.E. Smith, attended the meeting to present a proposal for “seasoned experts” to review current working strategies within the hospital, as well as local culture and needs, and present “sustainable and financially responsible” changes. The review would be performed by an executive of operations with nursing, critical access facility and financial experience, as well as a financial representative and possibly a reviewer for the nursing home, said Reid.

The review would take between two and three weeks to prepare and would include all departments and business operations. Where staff are currently asked to perform more than one function, methods for simplifying and streamlining would be sought and national productivity numbers would be compared with local ones, in the context of the community and its needs, to see if staffing numbers “make sense,” said Reid.

Following Reid’s presentation, Sughrue confirmed concerns from board members that such a review may double up on services that RHN are able to provide. Stressing that, if a review is performed, it should aim for a “harmonious blend” rather than suggesting two different courses of action, Sughrue recommended delaying the consultancy until the full impact of the new partnership with RHN becomes clear.

Parts of the consultancy that may become redundant include a revision of policies, said Sughrue. RHN will provide all of its own policies as part of the agreement, should CCMSD require them.

To maximize the cost versus benefit, in terms of both dollars and staff time spent on the consultation, and because “ultimately, it’s patient first,” Sughrue and Bryant suggested taking the time to check for duplications between B.E. Smith’s services and those RHN will be able to provide. The board moved to table the consultation until the RHN partnership is in full effect.

For more information about RHN and the services it offers, visit