Starting a new job usually means a period of adjustment. Learning names and faces, policies, even where the supply closet is located are part of the orientation period. Throw in a pandemic and there is another challenge no one had anticipated. Evan Rayner is the new CEO of Bear Valley Community Healthcare District, joining the district just a little more than two months ago. He arrived just as the Omicron surge also arrived.
It’s wreaked havoc, Rayner says of the COVID-19 variant that spread across the country toward the latter half of 2021. Speaking at the end of January, Rayner said there are more cases at the local hospital now than there were at this same time last year, which was the time of the winter wave. Bear Valley Community Hospital’s emergency room has turned into an ICU of late, he said. Add to the fact that more nurses are also contracting COVID-19, it’s been a challenge, Rayner says.
Despite the challenges, Rayner has a positive, thoughtful attitude. He smiles easily and is thoughtful in his words. He sat down with The Grizzly to introduce himself and his ideas, and share how those ideas fit with the district’s strategic plan. Rayner and his wife, Tamara, have three grown children. They moved to Big Bear from the Fresno area to be closer to family, he says.
As the new leader at BVCHD, Rayner’s goal is to enhance the caliber of care offered by Bear Valley Community Healthcare District. He is an out of the box thinker and is looking at ideas that will take the healthcare service provided to the community to the next level.
Bringing specialists to Big Bear is a first step, Rayner says. From orthopedists to primary care physicians, Rayner’s goal is to serve the needs of the community. Whether it’s an OB/GYN or a nephrologist, Rayner is seeking specialists to fill those needs. With an aging population, a telestroke program is part of the overall plan, he says. Telestroke services use telemedicine to provide immediate diagnosis and treatment for stroke victims. Nephrology is the study of the kidneys and their diseases. Limb salvage for diabetes patients, podiatry, surgery, cardiology … the potential list of specialists is extensive.
The advancements in telemedicine are a pillar in the strategic plan. Rayner wants to make it possible for residents not to have to travel off the mountain for healthcare services. He acknowledges that insurance is an obstacle, but Rayner says he is exploring relationships with all payers.
But these are all just ideas at this point, Rayner says. He will reach out to the community and bring the decisions back to the board before action, he says. Everything will align with strategic plan and the mission of the district, he says.
Before Rayner came on board, the district took over the Urgent Care center in Summit Plaza in Big Bear Lake. Steve Combs, who owed the Urgent Care Center and served as the primary care provider, has moved on. Tennile Allen, a nurse practitioner and RN, has joined the team. Rayner says. The staff is stabilizing and it’s important that the community sees Big Bear Urgent Care as an alternate to the emergency room, he says. Referring to the urgent care center as a vehicle built for speed, it allows patients with needs that aren’t as severe to be seen without the wait at the emergency room.
Big Bear Urgent Care is open seven days a week. Rayner says the district is also working to be a resource and partner for employers in the community to provide employee physicals, screenings and care for employees who may be injured. It’s a program that can be customized for individual businesses, he says.
One of the challenges the healthcare district is facing is the lack of housing for its workforce. Not unlike most employers in the Valley and beyond, recruiting quality staff is made more difficult due to the lack of housing in Big Bear. The healthcare district has acquired a lodging facility in Fawnskin to help offset the housing crunch. Rayner says having the housing available is a recruiting tool, and more is needed. Rayner says he appreciates the innovative approach of the board in providing the housing option.
Community outreach is also a priority for Rayner. He wants the community to be aware of what’s available, to be educated in the services offered by the district and to get to know the people. From employees of the month to new doctors and staff members, Rayner will highlight Bear Valley Community Healthcare District every chance he gets.
In addition to patient care and enhanced services, Rayner’s priority list includes a seismic retrofit of the hospital. A seismic-compliant facility is required by 2030, a mere eight years from now. Rayner says the options include a retrofit of the existing facility, a combination of retrofit and adding on or building, and a new building entirely. A choice will be made in the next couple of years, Rayner says.
Healthcare is the business of caring, Rayner says. It is humanitarian, but it is also a business, he says. Rayner inherited a fabulous team at Bear Valley, a team that is continually challenged by COVID, he says. Every day there is something new that can derail the plan, but everyone in the healthcare industry is facing the same challenges, Rayner says.