Patient looking and form with doctor (Photo: Shutterstock)

About a year ago, Valory Wangler, a family medicine doctor, invited a handful of former co-workers to her backyard.

During the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, Wangler and her colleagues had worked at a hospital in this former railroad hub of about 21,000 residents just a few miles from the Navajo Nation. The pandemic had been hard on Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital. Emergency federal funding was drying up and nearly a third of the staff — including Wangler, the chief medical officer — left after its board of trustees hired an out-of-state, for-profit management services firm to take over operations in August 2020.

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