OUR VIEW: RMC answers needed quickly

Published 1:07 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Officials at Riverside Medical Center readily admit the hospital faces complex financial challenges, which may only deepen as the country segues into the uncharted landscape of Obamacare beginning in 2014.

But RMC’s most pressing problem, at least among parish residents, appears not to be financial but a lack of credibility.

A year ago hospital officials were pressing the flesh, lobbying voters to approve a 15-mill property tax, which was replacing an expiring 18-mill tax. Officials and supporters claimed the millage was necessary to avoid a reduction in force and to keep RMC on sound financial footing.

At one point CEO Calvin Green implied the hospital would eventually close if voters nixed the millage.

Although there was widespread opposition the millage won by a narrow margin, but that only seems to have been the beginning of a frustrating epilogue. Shortly after the election the hospital stunned the community by announcing multiple layoffs as well as reducing the status of other employees from full time to part time.

Employees felt betrayed, especially since many, including some who lost their jobs, had spent their off hours canvassing neighborhoods drumming up support for the millage. Many also felt duped since the layoffs were announced so soon after the election.

That frustration, fueled even more by the fact some employees of the Rural Health Clinic were recently awarded raises but none were given to hospital employees, boiled over during a Board of Commissioners meeting this past week.

Some are calling for the resignation of Green and Chief Financial Officer Patty Mizell, a longtime RMC employee. Perhaps the call for resignations is a bit draconian, but RMC officials must be transparent with the community regarding the hospital’s finances.

Many employees have displayed tremendous loyalty in sticking with RMC, hedging their careers on the center’s long-term survival.

Indeed, Riverside plays a significant role in the community, and its survival is critical to maintaining the quality of life in Washington Parish.

But there are difficult questions administrators must answer and do so quickly. The public and the staff that has been so loyal are deserving of that consideration.