Healthcare District mission evolves; CEO Suksi assignment accomplished

Jan 20, 2018

With funds derived from operating a small thrift shop, the Tehachapi Hospital Guild has presented the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District with more than half a million dollars to purchase capital equipment for two surgical suites in the new hospital.

Jane Welden, vice president of the 70-member volunteer organization, handed district Chief Financial Officer Chet Beedle two checks totaling $584,365.78 at the Jan. 16 district board meeting at the district office, 305 S. Robinson St.

The checks were made out to the healthcare district rather than Adventist Health, which is leasing and operating the new and old hospitals and three clinics for 30 years, as the district still owns the facilities and all capital equipment.

Adventist is adding $515,206.17 to purchase instrumentation and imaging systems, for a total of $1,099,571.95 for the two surgical suites.

"We bought an ultrasound last year," Guild President Frankie Wysocki said. "We were looking for something big [to pay for]. We knew that Adventist was ready to get the keys to the hospital."

The board meeting was the last for Eugene Suksi as CEO of the district. Suksi oversaw the successful completion of the hospital and its 30-year lease to Adventist Health, and his tenure is ending as planned on Feb. 1. As the healthcare district no longer has the responsibility of operating a hospital, the public entity is trimming down to a small staff and re-calibrating its mission to community health. At the invitation of the board, Caroline Wasielewski, MBA, executive assistant to the CEO, is stepping up to be the district general manager, and Lisa Hughes, accounts payable/financial analyst, will be district business manager.

The board re-elected Mike Nixon as president, Dr. Sam Conklin vice president, Bill Steele secretary and Duane Moats treasurer. The board is accepting applications to fill the seat vacated by Don Napier. That appointment will extend until the November elections.

The Guild has been operating the thrift shop, located in a former church at 101 West F St., since 1975 with the specific purpose of purchasing equipment for Tehachapi Hospital. Four to five volunteers are on duty there six days a week, Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There are two paid employees.

"It's just a nickel and dime store," Wysocki said. "Our regulars are fun. It's a lot of fun."

The store and collection center are even busier now that the nearby St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop has closed, Wysocki said.

The Guild volunteers sort through donations in the back room, setting aside items that are suitable for the Salvation Army, which picks up twice a week.

At times the Guild turns away donations of books or clothing. Storage is limited and "it's a fire department thing," she said. "We are clearing out as quickly as we can."

Books are on sale now at 25 cents for three paperbacks and a hardback for one dollar.

The Guild meets on the first Monday of every month, 10 a.m., at the Tehachapi Community Congregational Church that is kitty-corner to the thrift shop at 100 East E St. For information, 822-3425.

Hospital Project Manager Stacey Pray reported that outstanding agreements are being closed out. The total actuals through Dec. 17 were $94,975,498.00.

Tina Fisher Cunningham, Fisher Forde Media, originally published in The Loop Newspaper, Jan. 20, 2018.