With COVID-19 at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the Bothwell Regional Health Center Board of Trustees discussed making a recommendation to the city and county for a mask ordinance and the center’s finances.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, Chief Executive Officer Lori Wightman and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Philip Fracica gave a presentation and suggested the board make a recommendation to the Sedalia City Council to enact a mask ordinance for the city. 

Wightman and Fracica cited rising COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation, multiple scientific studies showing the effectiveness of masks to stop the spread of the virus, and other local areas that have required masks. 

“The thing that really hit home for me was last week,” Fracica said. “I’ve been following every case in the hospital very closely and we had more cases in the hospital and more critically ill patients last week than we’ve had through the entire period of time since this all started. So at least as far as what’s hitting us here in the hospital, it really seemed to hit and explode last week and this week continued to have more.”

Wightman addressed comments which have been made about individuals saying their rights will be taken away by mandating masks. 

“We have taken away people’s right to expose others to secondhand smoke,” Wightman explained. “We did that several years ago and there was quite a bit of controversy about that. This is taking away people’s right to expose others to the virus that you’re shedding.”

Fracica and Wightman both highlighted how infected individuals are the most contagious the first few days before they start showing symptoms and droplets can be spread through simply speaking. Fracica also explained studies have shown that wearing a mask protects the wearer due to keeping them from getting a high dose of the virus. The board also spoke about how other area cities and counties have enforced their mask orders. 

Board member Joyce Foster said she wears a mask, saying she remembers when she had cancer years ago and was on chemotherapy. Foster said she had to wear a mask during that time and she remembers what it felt like. She said she wore a mask “out of respect for those people” and “out of concern for other people.” 

“I wear a mask even when I go to the gym,” Foster said. “I’ve been wearing them since the beginning...I just think out of respect, because I’ve walked in those shoes and know what it feels like to be afraid that you’re going to contract disease and die from an infection...and out of respect for other people. I think it’s my responsibility as a human being, not because somebody makes me do it, but because I want to do it.” 

Sedalia Mayor John Kehde and City Administrator Kelvin Shaw, both board members, explained the city does not have a health department and instead deferred to the Pettis County Health Center. 

“A mask ordinance comes through public health...” Shaw explained. “Columbia has its own public health department in the city, Sedalia does not...The county is the health department for Pettis County, including Sedalia. The way Missouri law works is that health order comes through the health department, not through the city. That’s really where it needs to come from and then, the way Missouri law is written, is the county is the one that gets to enforce that.”

Shaw and Kehde said the city could do something like a community letter to support the county’s decision, which Kehde said he had done in the past. 

The board ultimately did not approve the recommendation and agreed to continue having discussions. There was discussion to change some language, including removing asking the council to pass an ordinance in the recommendation letter and instead address it to the city council, Pettis County Commission and health center. 

Chief Financial Officer Steve Davis reported that for June, Bothwell was under budget on salaries, supplies, benefits, maintenance, and others. Over budget were pro fees purchased services. It also had a roughly $1.1 million loss in net operating revenue with an actual net operating loss of $262,878 for the month. 

Davis showed the board a graph for March to June of where Bothwell was supposed to be budget-wise, which was roughly $1.4 million. Without coronavirus relief grant funds, it would be at roughly negative $8.9 million, however, with those funds, Bothwell is at roughly $4.4 million. 

“We’ve actually received, per June, $13.3 million in CARES Act grants,” Davis explained. 

Davis predicted trending forward the hospital should be OK without any other changes from the government until November or December. 

The board also:

• Heard a presentation on Medicaid expansion from Missouri Hospital Association Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Communications Mary Becker. 

• Heard from Dr. Stuart Braverman on the Medical Executive Committee. 

• Approved the June financials and payment of bills. 

• Heard about the Board Quality Oversight Committee from Chief Nursing Officer Rose McMullin. 

• Heard from the SLT Roundtable. 

• Held a closed door session. 

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