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Grant County Community Health Council hears from GRMC interim CEO Cunningham

The Grant County Community Health Council, after approving action items, heard a presentation from Brian Cunningham, Gila Regional Medical Center interim chief executive officer.

Health Council members voted to approve the priorities chosen at the June retreat. They are Behavioral Health, Community Health/Safety, Family Resiliency, and Interpersonal Violence.

Member Tony Trujillo asked if the committees set up to address the priorities were still filling in the details.

"Yes, we are approving them, so I can take them to the County Commission to approve," Tiffany Knauf, Health Council coordinator, said.


Approved to fill a vacancy on the Steering Committee was Health Council member Evangeline Zamora, representing the disabilities sector.

"The votes between Evangeline and Mike Trujillo were tied last meeting, with Mike winning in a run-off, so we figured most of you wanted Evangeline to be part of the Steering Committee, too," Knauf said.

Also approved was the 2014 meeting schedule for the full Health Council and the monthly Steering Committee meetings. The Health Council meetings will remain at 3 p.m., because, according to Knauf: "We've had fairly good attendance."

Cunningham said he appreciated the opportunity to give updates to the council. "What do you want to hear?"

Health Council Chairwoman Priscilla Lucero said she would like to hear about the transition and what's happening with the employees who had had reduced hours. Tony Trujillo asked what the plans were to keep the Health Council going.

"I've been interim CEO for seven weeks," Cunningham said. "We set a 30- day, 60-day and 90-day plan. The 30-day plan was to replace the senior-level positions of those who resigned. The focus was internal and local talent. We have so many talented people here and in the hospital. Instead of what would usually take a nine-month search, we have filled the positions.  The Chief Nursing Officer will be Pat Sheyka, who had 40 years experience and has been serving Gila Regional as house supervisor for five years. She will not require six months of orientation. She already knows what's happening in the hospital. The Chief Operations Officer is Dan Otero, who spent 14 years with Gila Regional Medical Center, starting as an emergency medical technician. For the past five years, he has been across the country and in Africa. He has hit the ground running with high-level programs, working through the surgical unit and emergency room to develop efficiencies in financing, so no dime is left on the table.

"Ray Goellner, who has been at Gila Regional for seven years in the Pharmacy, will be Chief of Clinical Services," Cunningham continued. "He, too, will need no orientation. The Chief Financial Officer is Beth Allred, with 20 years experience at Gila Regional, 10 of them in the finance department as the assistant vice president. She, too, hit the ground running. I have been at Gila Regional for 11 years and was in the successor position to chief executive officer. We are working more like a team, putting them in the right positions. The team was already in place; we just moved the positions around. We have a focus on leadership to get leadership aligned so we can serve our caregivers better so they can give the best service to the patients and the community.

"We want caregivers to know Tiffany, Chris (DeBolt, GRMC Health Outreach and Health Council member), and James (Marshall, newly named EMT director)," Cunningham said. "They are there for the caregivers. We want to get everyone on the same page in an open, inclusive process, so we can get feedback to help the leadership be better."

As for the 67 employees impacted in May with a 50 percent reduction in hours and pay, Cunningham said the 30-day plan was to go to each director and find out, based on demand and the workload of the department, "how to right size the department." The process involved a mix of caregivers.

He said the original plan was a reduction in force of 30 people, but the board of trustees changed it to downgrade 67 to half time. "The previous leaders had begun to bring back some to fulltime. Now we are at about 35 brought back to fulltime; 15-17 at halftime based on demand, several left the hospital, and about five were reductions in force.  I don't think that adds up to 67, because I don't have my notes in front of me. We have addressed the issue."

Cunningham said the cut to 50 percent for the 67 would have provided $1.039 million in savings. "We brought back half that with those back to fulltime, and with the leadership transition, with savings in salary and benefits. The previous C-level salaries were not out of the norm nationwide, but we reset the salaries here. With those we brought back to fulltime, the savings were cut to $790,000, but with the leadership savings of $550,000, we saved more than $1.3 million."

"We wish the former leaders well, because we stand on their shoulders," Cunningham said.

As for Health Council changes, he said the hospital is reassessing where it's at, determining where it's been, where it is and where it is going. "We are assessing all departments. But the ultimate decision we made was that the Health Council will continue to report to James Marshall. It should evolve as you see fit. I will be learning what you do peripherally, although I've been aware of your work. The question is how can I serve and support you guys better. I have to put all the departments together and see how I can serve them the best way."

"We thank you for that," Lucero said. "I think the staff appreciates keeping it that way. We have a wealth of resources and knowledge from this group. What can we do to help you? I commend you in moving in the direction you have. We need to provide input and feedback to you.

"I also ask you to talk about the Patient Collaborative Council and how you utilize them as you move forward with this transition," Lucero said.

"The voice of the customer is vital," Cunningham said. "It's the same in health care. About a year ago, the Patient Collaborative Council was formed, made up of ex-users of Gila Regional. It meets every month. We ask the committee to provide the eyes and voice of the customer. What are we not thinking about? We have gotten great feedback to keep a close connection to the community we serve."

"As a person who represents economic development," Lucero said, "how many times, as we go from meeting to meeting, do we say we want to keep economic development and families here."

Health Council member Mary Stoecker asked if the public could go to the Patient Collaborative Council and offer feedback.

Cunningham said it was not opened to the public, because "we wanted a focused discussion on the target issues."

DeBolt said, "having lived through the transition, the morale is so improved. Transparency is so good. It's refreshing that people want to hear more about it."

"We were so fortunate to have the people," Cunningham said. "The board of trustees set the tone."

Tony Trujillo congratulated Cunningham and his team. "You have handled it well and in an open and transparent manner. You are communicating well. As Membership Committee chairman, I'm hoping you will soon be on this side."

"I'm hoping so, too," Cunningham said. "Where we misstep, we back up and fix."

Lucero asked him to commend the board and the senior leadership.

The next presentation was by Zamora, on behalf of the Disabilities Advisory Council.

"Silver City will provide us a building," Zamora said. "The city asked us to create a white paper explaining who we are serving and with what."

She read the group's mission, which states it promotes and advocates a safe environment for those with disabilities.

"We provide resources, play, therapy and training," Zamora said. "Primarily it will be for those with disabilities. We will have a sensory integration area. Our first priority is to implement the deliverables in government. We received a grant for $7,400, with LifeQuest as the fiscal agent. We have a part-time coordinator, and we have developed memoranda of understanding with supportive agencies. We have a strong partnership with Western New Mexico University and the schools."

The rest of the meeting will be covered in subsequent article(s).

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