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Engstrom: HAMC in dire situation
October 25, 2019

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I want to make you aware of the DIRE SITUATION the Heart of America Medical Center (HAMC) is in. The Tribune's front page Oct. 11, 2019 "retirement" story reported the current CEO saying, "It is a critical need of the community to have good, well-paying jobs here, and then, the most important mission is the care of the residents in long term care, the patients in our ER, the patients that come through our clinic." Why isn't that happening?

My dad was a resident at Heart of America Care Center (HAMCC) for seven years. His care got progressively worse and got to the point where it was unbearable to witness. In July 2019, I called a few families with loved ones at HAMCC and realized that my family was not the only one unhappy about the care. Together we decided to call the President of the HAMC Board to request a meeting, however, he refused to let us meet with the board. We then decided to notify all state and federal agencies that could help us. After all, our community NEEDS HAMC. We must ALL do what we can to save HAMC and to look after the safety of our elderly and disabled.

To date, 22 people came forward with information they are willing to submit. If you double that number, it would be a true representation of how many individuals have information, but are too frightened to submit a report. Many individuals who do not want to submit a report are family members of current residents and are afraid of retribution on their loved ones or are current/past employees who were afraid of being sued or losing their job. Time and time again, current and past employees reported that they were threatened with legal action by administration if they reported what is happening at HAMC/HAMCC. As the reports came streaming in, we concluded this was not just a HAMCC problem. The issues reported came from every division of HAMC. Packets of reports were compiled and sent to 18 state and federal agencies.

What types are things are being reported? Substandard care/neglect/abuse, unjust treatment of employees, threatening tactics used by administration to control dissemination of damning evidence, poor treatment of families of patients/residents and constant short staffing, just to name a few. There are so many good employees at HAMC. There was at least 20 reports from HAMC employees saying they were threatened with legal action or fired by the HAMC administration for doing such things as: reporting substandard care/negligence/abuse, refusing to go along with fraudulent requests or practices, refusing to do unethical things and making suggestions for improvement. We further found that many employees filed grievances that never saw the light of day.

Did you know that HAMC downgraded their EMS services from Advanced Life Support (ALS) to Basic Life Support (BLS)? What does this mean for our community? This means that the program that our community worked so hard to build has now been downgraded. It also means services the Rugby EMS employees used to be able to offer are no longer available and patients must be sent elsewhere. Many surrounding communities are transporting patients to facilities that have ALS services. Again, fewer jobs and services and less money for our community.

In late 2017, HAMC was in such a bad financial predicament the HAMC Foundation gave them over $2 million. Why then is the current CEO taking credit for "getting us through the rocky time"? Add to that the fact that HAMC just purchased the Premier Lube Building at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars! It

doesn't make sense!

Lastly, I would like to point out the HAMC organization, and in particular, HAMCC is a constant revolving door of contract staff. IT DOES OUR COMMUNITY NO GOOD TO BE IMPORTING STAFF FROM ELSEWHERE! They would have sufficient LOCAL staff working at HAMC if the employees were treated and paid fairly. Instead, the contract staff is shipped in and paid an exorbitant wage. I noticed the Rugby JDA has many lots for sale. Who will buy these lots if businesses like HAMC keep shipping their TEMPORARY employees in from elsewhere?

I challenge you, the community of Rugby and the surrounding area, to start asking the hard questions about what is happening at HAMC and what needs to be done to correct this downward spiral. Hopefully if changes in administration are made and we all work together, HAMC can go back to being a trusted healthcare facility that provides jobs for people that genuinely care about our community.

Janelle Engstrom,

York

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