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NIHD Board Member MC Hubbard Retires, District Seeks to Fill Vacancy

As 2020 nears, Northern Inyo Healthcare District is bidding a fond farewell to its current longest serving Board of Trustees member, MC Hubbard. After almost 14 years, Hubbard is retiring from her service to the residents of the Healthcare District’s Zone 5 region, covering southeast Bishop, Wilkerson, Big Pine, and Aberdeen.

NIHD’s Board of Trustees is in the process of accepting letters of interest from Zone 5 residents interested in being appointed to Hubbard’s position. The Board selected Trustees Robert Sharp and Jody Veenker to conduct interviews of candidates and then make a recommendation to the entire Board for final selection. That person will hold the Zone 5 seat until November 2020. At that point, he or she will need to formally run for election to complete the remaining two years of Hubbard’s term, slated to end in 2022.

NIHD Chief Executive Officer Kevin S. Flanigan, MD MBA, said to date, five people expressed an interest in the position. Of those five, at least two have submitted formal letters of interest to the Board.

For Hubbard, the decision to retire, as she likes to call it, from the NIHD Board is one that she has considered for a while. “Although I have learned a lot about healthcare and have certainly appreciated the time I have served, I have been on the board for more than 13 years,” Hubbard explains. “I decided it was time to allow someone else to serve on this essential Board of Directors.

Appointed to the Board in 2006, she had just retired from a long-term banking career. She says the chance to learn more about the inner workings of healthcare intrigued her. Hubbard quickly realized the size of the learning curve ahead of her, especially as NIHD began its move to construct a new two-story hospital.

The completion of the two-story hospital in 2013 serves as a milestone for all the Board members of the era, and Hubbard is no exception. Following voter approval of a needed bond measure, the Board stood alongside NIHD staff as they faced construction challenges and rigorous state seismic regulations. Hubbard said there were days where she wondered what she had gotten herself into with her appointment. She would go on to win election to her position three times.

“I admit there have been some wonderful accomplishments over the years, but the first thing that comes to mind is the completion of the hospital building,” she smiles. “It was quite an experience going from the construction phase to the final occupancy over the three-year process.”

As for a personal sense of accomplishment, Hubbard notes the Healthcare District is still considered a continually growing entity. “Healthcare is in an endless state of change, and I’m not sure everyone realizes how much change occurs every year. Plus, how much of that change is out of our control at the local level,” she said.

“Being part of the District during both the positive times and the challenging times, I think that where the real accomplishment rests, not just for the Trustees, but for everyone who works at the District. Every day in healthcare gives us another chance to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. We have to enjoy the good times and survive the bad to continue making that difference. If we lose sight of that, then we lose sight of those we serve.”

As for her fellow trustees, Hubbard wishes them well on their journey. “The other four board members are very caring, and certainly a group with diversified backgrounds. I am sure they will rise to the challenges facing healthcare districts going forward,” she said. “Each individual brings their strengths to the Board, and I am confident they will achieve positive things.”

As for her future, Hubbard intends to spend more time with her family, including her four great grandchildren. She will also stay busy as a trustee to the Slager Foundation and as a member of Bishop Sunrise Rotary.

Hubbard notes that through the years, she received a lot of support. “Thinking back, all I can say is what a ride it has been. I want to thank our community members and certainly the wonderful staff at NIHD,” she said. “It’s truly been a pleasure to work with all of them.”

NIHD Prepares for Walk with a Doc Event

The next Walk with a Doc event, sponsored by the Northern Inyo Healthcare District, is set for Sunday, Dec. 22nd from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Walkers of all ages are invited to gather in front of the Rehabilitation Services Building in the Pioneer Lane parking lot on the Northern Inyo Healthcare District campus.

Dr. David Pomeranz, an emergency care provider at NIHD, will lead the 1.2-mile walk in the nearby Bishop Paiute Tribe’s Conservation Open Space Area (COSA). The walking path in the COSA is a dirt path

Participation is free and pre-registration is not required. Walkers will enjoy friendly conversation with Dr. Pomeranz, who will provide support and answer questions during the walk.
All walks are open to the community, so feel free to bring friends and family. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a water bottle.

All walks are held monthly, please watch media for dates and times. For more information, call Barbara Laughon, NIHD Strategic Communications Specialist, at 760-873-5811 ext. 3415.
Walk with a Doc is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage healthy physical activity in people of all ages and reverse the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle in order to improve the health and well-being of the country.

Rhonda Aihara named NIH’s 2016 DAISY Award Winner

Rhonda Aihara named NIH’s 2016 DAISY Award Winner

May 16, 2016
Submitted by Northern Inyo Hospital

Rhonda Aihara, a Perinatal Services/Labor and Delivery nurse at Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIHD), was named the healthcare facility’s 2016 winner of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The recognition is part of an annual international program honoring nurses for clinical skills and compassionate care.

Aihara, clearly humbled by the honor, said she feels she could share the award with a number of “incredibly fabulous and fantastic nurses who equally deserve such recognition. Each one has their own special touch and their own compassionate heart, and they think nothing of going above and beyond for our patients. I am honored to be able to stand beside them.”

NIH 2016 Daisy Award Winner Rhonda Aihara
NIH 2016 Daisy Award Winner Rhonda Aihara

For Aihara, nursing has been a way of life for the past 37 years. She says she knew at age seven that she wanted to be a nurse. She credits her mother, a Licensed Vocational Nurse who cared for burn patients at the UC Irvine Medical Center, with inspiring her to follow in her footsteps. “I think I subconsciously decided to take the same path she did,” Aihara said. “As a child, I remember wisps and shades of stories she told about her patients and how she cared for them. Her compassion for her patients affected me.”

Aihara began her career at UC Irvine, working first with trauma patients before moving into Labor and Delivery, serving almost 15 years in each department. She retired from UC Irvine in 2008 and discovered she had more to give. She became a traveling nurse.

I can still hear my recruiter telling me about NIH,” she said. “My recruiter said, “it’s this little, tiny place in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know if you’d be interested.’” Aihara was more than interested. She fell in love with the Eastern Sierra corridor as a young woman and jumped at the chance to call Bishop her home. She joined the hospital and worked as a “traveler” for one year, the longest term she could work under that job title. She was required then to take three months off.

It was the best year of my life, I mean, I woke up every day in God’s County,” Aihara said. When a full-time position became available, she quickly applied and has been at the hospital ever since. “I’m living the dream I had three decades ago,” she said. “Every day I wake up here is a gift; living here is a joy.”

The DAISY award honors the super-human work nurses do for patients every day, explained Tracy Aspel, NIHD’s Acting Chief Nursing Officer. Patients and their families, as well as other nurses within the organization, nominate nurses for the DAISY award. In Aihara’s case, two patients nominated her for the honor.

In a letter to NIHD, one of the patients called Aihara “one of the most compassionate persons I have ever met.” The letter went on to say that Aihara’s “every act and word is intentionally kind, empathetic and truly without pretense. I know her job must be difficult on many levels, but she sets her heart into action just as readily as she does her hands. Her heart is beautiful.”

The second letter detailed the care Aihara gave a young patient, including twice being called in from home to assist with the child’s care. “She did not have to do the kind things she had done for (us), but she did,” the letter said. “She treated us like she truly cared about our (child). She went above and beyond for our (child) and put (our child’s) needs above hers. She showed us and talked to us and treated us like family, and that means everything to me. I cannot say enough about Rhonda. This letter does not explain half of what Rhonda has done for our family. She is an inspiration to us. I’m glad Northern Inyo Hospital has nurses like Rhonda.”

As Aspel read the letters to those assembled at the hospital for the DAISY presentation, her emotions became visible, her voice cracking. “I don’t mean to get emotional, but I am touched because this is what makes Northern Inyo special, it has a team that cares about patients and who put patients first,” Aspel said.

Also nominated for the DAISY award were Emergency Department nurses Brenda Brewer and Cindy Knight; Acute/SubAcute Nurses Brent Obinger, Ron Daywalt and Sasha Smith; Post-Anesthesia Care Unit/Outpatient Infusion nurses Cathy Chuey and Oscar Morales, and; Intensive Care Unit nurses Jane Steele and Scotty Vincik. Aspel said all nominees are given a special DAISY pin and most wear them on their hospital employee badges.

Previous DAISY Award nurses at NIHD include Christine Hanley (2012), Joey Zappia (2013), Deborah Earls (2014) and Diane Stevens (2015). Northern Inyo Healthcare District has been recognized as a DAISY organization since 2013.Aihara received a certificate of recognition; a DAISY Award pin; a sculpture entitled “A Healer’s Touch,” which is hand-carved from serpentine stone by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe; and, a DAISY Award tote bag.

The presentation was the kickoff to the hospital’s observation of National Nurses Week, May 6-12, and National Hospital Week, May 9-13.

DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System. The DAISY Award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s efforts to recognize the super-human efforts nurses make in direct care of patients and patient families every day. The not-for-profit DAISY Foundation, based in Glen Ellen, Calif., was established by family members in memory of J. Patrick Barnes.

Barnes died in 1999 at the age of 33 from an autoimmune disease. The care Barnes and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired the award as a means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families.

About Northern Inyo Healthcare District: Founded in 1946, Northern Inyo Healthcare District features a 25-bed critical access hospital, a 24-hour emergency department, a primary care rural health clinic, a diagnostic imaging center, and clinics specializing in women’s health, orthopedics and neurology, pediatrics and allergies and general surgery. Continually striving to improve the health outcomes of those who rely on its services, Northern Inyo Healthcare District aims to improve our communities one life at a time. One team, one goal, your health.

Photos by Barbara Laughon

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NIH adds a General Surgeon

Northern Inyo Hospital gains new General Surgeon

Northern Inyo Hospital welcomes General Surgeon Allison J. Robinson to its healthcare team this week. Robinson is double Board certified in General Surgery with specialization in Colon and Rectal Surgery. In Bishop, she will work alongside Dr. Robbin Cromer-Tyler in the Pioneer Medical Building on the Northern Inyo Hospital campus. She will begin seeing patients September 1st.

A graduate of Whittier College, Robinson entered the US Navy in 1990 when she attended the Uniformed Services University F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine in Bethesda, MD. She completed her General Surgery residency at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and did a Colon and Rectal Fellowship at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, LA.

Stationed at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego for the past 10 years, Robinson served as a Staff Surgeon and was Head of Colon and Rectal Division and Surgical Endscopy Suite. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda.

Among her numerous military honors, she was named Top Surgeon in the Navy, 2007-2009, by a patient satisfaction survey, and most recently received her seventh Most Productive General Surgeon achievement.

“As a surgeon, I truly enjoy meeting with and working with my patients as people … allowing them to return to their lives is a very satisfying part of my job,” Robinson said.

No stranger to the area, Robinson was raised in Big Pine, daughter of Lloyd and Dorothy Wilson, retired teachers from the Big Pine Unified School District. Robinson and her husband, Ron, of 16 years, have two sons, Toby, 13, and Cody, 12. As a family, the Robinsons enjoy outdoor activities including boating, fishing, kayaking and skiing and look forward to being back in the area.

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Dr. Allison Robinson
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Concerns Voiced at NIH Board Meeting

NIH board meeting draws large crowd

The Northern Inyo Healthcare District board of Directors meeting Wednesday night opened with a nearly one hour public comment period.  Anticipating a large crowd, NIH officials moved the meeting location to Cerro Coso Community College.  A large crowd did indeed turn out Wednesday evening. Hospital board president M.C. Hubbard required those in attendance to keep their comments to two minutes. Laurie Archer, a nurse at NIH and a member of the Nurses Union Bargaining team opened the public comment period speaking of serious concerns with negotiations, including the claim that hospital administration is not accurately relaying information to the board.

Union support during public comment was voiced by Chris Wickam, president of the Inyo County Employees Association as well as union members from the Town of Mammoth Lakes.

Dr. Eric Richman, member of the Bishop Unified School District Board, told the hospital board the current administration has created a “atmosphere of intimidation and fear”.

Bishop resident Randy Short, member of the California Boating and Waterways Commission, voiced concern that NIH may be exposing itself to potential litigation by not bargaining in good faith with the nurses union.

John Atkens, a resident of Bishop, questioned the hospitals policy on removing employees during serious illness. Atkens, founder and a member of the board of advisers for Proaxis Therapy, spoke passionately of a friend who was released after 15 years of service at NIH. Atkens noting that his friend was let go while battling cancer.

Following the public comment period the board did respond to a request that they introduce themselves to the audience. Board members noted their geographic districts with board president M.C. Hubbard quickly addressing the district’s medical leave policy. Hubbard said the hospital policy was changed in 2012 to approve 16 weeks of leave which is a month longer than the legal requirement of 12 weeks. Hubbard also indicated that NIH employees may use any Paid Time Off (PTO) they have coming, and also have the opportunity to have co-workers donate PTO hours.

cover photo and story by Arnie Palu

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