Community turns out for Dr. Taylor

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

With the advent of Doctor Jay Taylor’s resignation, effective in March, the community came together in an effort to have the PMC board of trustees try and resolve issues and have him stay at Pondera Medical Center.

At the regular board meeting on Thursday, an overflow crowd was toe-to-toe in the conference room. The trustees wisely decided to move the meeting and contacted the high school who graciously allowed almost 200 people to have better seating with many of them having a better chance to hear what was going on, and to voice their opinion about retaining Dr. Taylor.

Board chairman Brent Gaylord was in Billings, leaving trustee Bernard Ries to run the meeting. At the high school he commented, “Seldom do we have this many people at a meeting.”

Bea Lunda who runs and owns a state liquor store here, but lives in Shelby, was a prime organizer of the meeting and expressed her view to the board; “Come up with a plan to keep him (Taylor) in our community.” That short, to the point opinion set the tone for others to follow.

Don McClain read a statement, saying, “Nine years ago, when Dr. Jay and Monica Taylor decided to move to Conrad and begin his career with the PMC, Jeanette and I were excited to think we were going to a 31-year-old doctor that we could have here for the rest of our lives.

During these nine years, there have been many rocky times, but Jay remained dedicated to his patients and this community. He has been a good supporter for the employees and PMC, striving for the betterment of all.

His ‘on call ‘time has gone from 7-8 days a month to 15-16 days a month. Lunch time has gone from 1.5 hours to whatever he can find time for due to meetings, scheduling and squeezing in patients

His contract in the past stated a base salary increase each year which never happened. He ignored the fact PMC did not honor that because he knew of the financial issues. Who in leadership ever spoke to him about their decision not to honor that part of his contract?

He became frustrated more and more with management and work almost two years ago. The other providers were taking more personal time away requiring Jay to take on more and more with little or no notice or communication.

The Taylor’s fit into this community with two children doing well here. They have even purchased land to build a new home on.

The decision to tender his resignation was when he found out management was having him checked on because they considered he was wasting time and not spending enough time seeing more patients.

It is my sincere hope that this team can pull together by recruiting a new doctor and keep from making a terrible mistake by letting Dr. Taylor leave here.”

Paul Stenerson, a former CHS principal had the privilege of having Taylor as a student. He commented that over the past 10-15 years he couldn’t tell you how many doctors he has had. “If I have to, I’ll go out of town to find a doctor who will fill my needs.”

Andy Vandolah noted that, “Taylor is very supportive of the community. I’d hate to see Jay leave town.”

George Tornga told the trustees, “It angers me that we have to bring in over 200 people for this,” a comment that drew a big applause from the audience.

Sarah Oehlke, a former PMC trustee and chairperson, addressed the board saying, “Not long ago we had four doctors, now we have two. There must be some issue, I ask you to table that resignation and try to resolve these issue(s) and keep him on staff.”

Cheryl Curry, of Valier, and the Port Authority secretary, suggested starting up a “Task Force.”

Wayne Ogburn, PMC/CEO talked to the crowd and noted he has been talking to the hospital employees and met with Dr. Taylor numerous times – including a one hour meeting last week. He did not talk about what prompted Taylor’s resignation or any concerns he had.

Ogburn said he liked the idea of a Task Force, however, it remains to be seen if one will be formed.

The CEO said the plan is to build up to a four doctor clinic. He noted that a new Physician Assistant, Wade Holden, is on the way. He will replace Christopher Mu who resigned and took a similar position in Billings.

Mu has since sent an email to the editor of the I-O saying he would like to come back. The hospital administration, in a separate interview last week, indicated that this was not a possibility.

There will be two doctors, Dr. Williams and Dr. Balaer, both from Helena, who will come on weekends, but this is an expensive short term gap and does not solve the problem at hand.

In a non-related topic, as the meeting drew to a close, Reta Rae Weisgram told the trustees, “Please get rid of the automated answering system at the hospital.” This comment drew a huge applause from the audience, including a high-five fist pump from Doctor Patricia Grena.

The hospital administrator (Ogburn) told the I-O in an earlier interview that they would take out the automated answering system at the front desk, but would leave the system in place at the nurses’ station. He said it would take about a month before the system could be removed.

The views of the people were taken during a public comment segment and no action was taken. The comments expressed will be taken under advisement.