Dozens of citizens concerned with the future of the Riverton and Lander hospitals met Thursday morning with SageWest Chief Operating Officer, Dan Springer.
On Wednesday, Springer met with citizens at the Lander hospital for breakfast, and he followed up with breakfast Thursday in the Riverton hospital cafeteria.
The small space had a beyond capacity crowd, with many forced to stand and some trying to listen from the hallway.
Springer took a couple minutes to introduce himself, then dove straight into the recent issues and rumors with blood typing, and the ability to administer blood to patients, in Riverton.
“The first thing that you probably have heard a lot about in the news is the blood issues.” Springer said, “in June, we recognized that we needed some additional testing for our laboratory technicians here at the Riverton hospital and across SageWest, so it wasn’t just here, we wanted to provide some additional education and training for those lab technicians.”
Springer continued, “we got with our accredited agency, we wanted to make sure we were doing things the right way, and so, we asked the best way to be able to approach our additional training and our need for education. They laid out some steps for us that we decided to take. So for six months we decided to stop blood typing and crossing. Which means that you can’t come to the hospital in Riverton and find out what your blood type is.”
“We wanted to make sure that, that was addressed appropriately, so we got together our EMS providers and ER physicians and came up with all our plans to procedures, and the ways that we were going to handle that so it wouldn’t affect our patients. About a month later, it came out in the media and was kind of turned into something that it wasn’t. I have a difficult time saying that I’d do it any differently now, because it’s a difficult message to share when a lot of the general public doesn’t know what cross matching blood means. We might have not responded as quickly as we should have and so I apologize for that. The message being twisted was unfortunate.”
The COO then took time to address the merger of SageWest parent company Lifepoint, noting that Lifepoint will take itself private instead of being a publicly traded company in the coming months, and that it will merge with RCCH Health Partners. “We make decisions locally here, so it’s not like they run our hospital from Nashville, Tennessee. But that doesn’t mean we’re not owned by someone else,” explained Springer.
He also addressed the 2016 sterilization incident in Lander, in which dried blood and “bone-like fragments” were found on medical instruments. Springer said in 2017 the Joint Commission came in to survey both hospitals and found zero deficiencies. In 2018, they hired an independent sterile processing firm, who he says told them they had a 100% score, meaning there were no issues with sterilization in both Riverton and Lander.
After Springer addressed the crowd for roughly 20 minutes, he opened up a question and answer session that lasted roughly 45 minutes.
In total, 27 different questions were presented from community members to Springer, with several additional follow-ups. The majority of the questions centered around the future of SageWest in Fremont County, and what services specifically were offered in Riverton. Many also inquired about what the hospital board’s role in Riverton will be, and why it seemed as though more services were being offered in Lander than Riverton.
Citizens, at times, became vocal and frustrated with their dissatisfaction of the current SageWest leadership and services. When Springer was asked a question that he could not, or chose not to address directly, much of the crowd audibly groaned. Dan also made a comment about the process of having a baby at a hospital, which was immediately met with loud remarks that people “could not have had a baby in Riverton.”
Near the meeting’s conclusion, many encouraged Springer to bring other colleagues who could “better answer questions,” or to have “more answers,” at the next breakfast.
A handful of former Riverton hospital employees introduced themselves with questions, including former physicians and nurses. Also in attendance were Fremont County Commissioner Chairman Travis Becker, Riverton City Councilman Kyle Larsen, and Riverton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Davis.
Two more “Breakfast with Dan Springer” events are scheduled in October. Tuesday, October 23rd Springer will be at the Riverton hospital again and Wednesday, October 24th he’ll be in Lander.