Board members took a lashing from the public and visitors also confronted each other ahead of a public hearing and regular meeting to handle governing matters related to the Sutton County Hospital District held Monday, October 12, at the Sutton County Civic Center.

Following confirmation that the meeting had been duly called and a quorum was present, Board President Mark Edwards allowed visitors to speak, but each person was limited to three minutes.

Cecilia Burnett was first to address the board with her concerns over what she said looks like cronyism behavior by board members. Burtnett said she is, “disappointed in the animosity she sees in the hospital board.” She then defined the use of cronyism as it relates to the board as “favoring close friends in political situations, such as the current and ongoing political situation involving the hospital and its board. Burtnett was unable to finish explaining her presumption before the timer expired and she was told to return to her seat.

Hospital board candidate Brigitte Rogers and her husband Jim Brisbin spoke next. The two cited a list of alleged wrongdoings by previous board members and hospital administrators while applauding the work of the current board. Specifically, Brisbin noted that he believed the previous board raised taxes by 26 percent and approved expenses associated with three failed programs.

Brisbin also said he does not believe that board member Edward Earwood is a resident of Sutton County, therefore he cannot serve on the board.

Other speakers included Julia Jones, Ben Pool, Carl Teaff, Kristy Edwards and Lenora Pool.

Jones asked that trustee Don Longoria be removed from the board and replaced with a resident of Sutton County.

Kristy Edwards called out board members Adelita Alvarez and Mary Humphrey by name while criticizing them for their involvement in negative social media posts.

With a tremble in her voice she said, “I think that there are some members who should be really ashamed, Adelita and Mary, for the texts that you send my husband that are vile. That’s inappropriate and I just want to call you out on that. Another thing, you guys malign my husband’s character over and over again. He has volunteered his time just like all of you to make Sutton County and our hospital a success. He knows more about rural health care than anybody in this room except maybe Lance. He is trying to advise and help you follow the law. And if you don’t like it, or you don’t want to agree with it that’s OK but maligning his character or his faith is not OK.”

Looking at Burtnett, Edwards continued, “You’ve never met us. So, to question his character, Ms. Celita? I’m sorry I don’t know you, is also inappropriate.”

Next, Edwards said a statement made by Ben Pool was not true. “We were admitting patients. We were very successful, seeing 16 patients a day. We were offered to stay here for 50 to $60,000 less than they offered Pajestka. If you understood the finances you would know.” She then turned her attention to board member Alvarez and said, “Adelita your media push about the budget is wrong.”

Turning again in the direction of the audience, Edwards said, “You guys we gotta get together on this. We want Sonora hospital district and Sutton County to be better. We don’t want to ruin it, but we don’t want our character being maligned at every encounter. Our goal is to love the people of Sutton County and take care of their health. And if you can’t see that in his character and mine then maybe you should take the time to come talk to us.”

Following the mudslinging, a public hearing was opened to allow visitors the opportunity to comment on the proposed 2021 hospital district budget.

Hospital CEO Lance Keilers noted that the budget was “aggressive” but it afforded expenses associated with providing new programs such as behavioral health and hospice and continued quality health care, “to serve the people of Sutton County.”

Ben Pool asked the board collectively if they were satisfied with the budget. The reply was “yes”. There was no discussion among board members themselves. Board candidate Sharon Holman asked about budgeted expense amounts for contracted services. Specifically, she asked about an increase in budgeted salaries and Keilers travel expenses.

Before closing the hearing, Keilers noted that despite the unknowns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that could impact the budget in the future, he gave it his best effort at presenting a solid bid to the board.

The hearing was closed and board members voted unanimously in favor of approving the 2021 budget as proposed.

Moving ahead to consideration of capital expenditures, Keilers outlined a list of repairs and upgrades necessary to the day to day operations of the hospital and providing ongoing health care services to the community.

The list included a new roof for the hospital building, replacement of a chiller which provides air conditioning for the hospital and a variety of other equipment items.

Some but not all of the equipment needs mentioned included cardiac monitors, a bone density machine, cardiac treadmill, EKG, commercial appliances for the kitchen and upgrades to the security system.

In response to a question from board member John Henry Strauch as to funding, Keilers noted that money market funds would be used to pay the expenses.

Board members unanimously approved a motion to allocate $550,000 for capital expenditures.

In other business, the board approved the minutes of the September 21, 2020 regular meeting, financial report ending August 31, 2020 and expenses for September 2020 as presented.

They also approved a list of provisional and consulting staff as recommended by medical staff.

Lastly, Keilers gave an update on the progress of the Behavioral Health Program, quality initiatives, Dr. Pajestka and the CEO search.

Keilers reported that the issue of inventory had been revisited and the hospital reimbursed Pajestka an additional $28,954.26 for clinic inventory.

The hospital is also working on implementing more telehealth services as well as wound care services locally. As for the position of hospital CEO, he said only 14 applications have been received.

The meeting adjourned just after 7:00 p.m.

Board President Mark Edwards presided over the meeting with trustees Edward Earwood, Mary Humphrey, Adelita Alvarez, Noemi Samaniego and John Henry Strauch in attendance.

Trustee Don Longoria was absent.

The Sutton County Hospital District Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on the second Monday of each month. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.