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Gila Regional Medical Center holds town hall sessions

On Thursday, Sept. 19, Gila Regional Medical Center leadership hosted a town hall to give caregivers updates on what has transpired during the past month.

Interim Chief Executive Office Brian Cunningham led off the discussion with the words: "We are all in this together. We are poised as human beings, as caregivers, to take over more of the responsibility of services, as well as the financial condition, in order to keep us going. We're well on our way."

He said at the last town hall meeting, he had explained the board of trustees committing to choosing local talent for the leadership of the hospital.



"The goal was to have the leaders in place within 30 days, and we did it, with the help of the human resources department, who arranged the interviews," Cunningham said. "The ones chosen were team members who were already here. The end result is that every one started around the first of September and hit the ground running."

He thanked the other applicants within the organization. "You can continue to help us move forward. We are getting clarity on where we are and where we are going."

"We told you that for the 30-60 day goal, we would focus on leadership," Cunningham said. "That is not to diminish what the caregivers do every day, but we don't need to train you. We already have in place a process to train you.

"Leadership got us in trouble, not the front-line caregivers," Cunningham continued. "The leaders were not bad people. We stand on their shoulders and those of the previous leaders. Their approach was not what we needed."

He said leadership is usually not trained for the position, but must figure out what they have to do. There is no formal proctoring or training for leaders. "Typically, directors get zero orientation, and have to figure it out by themselves. In a highly changing environment, that doesn't work."

The leaders, supervisors, directors and managers are equally as caring, but for many years, they got little training in knowing what they were accountable for.

"We've already had six hours of leadership training and plan more regular training," Cunningham said. "We need the leadership aligned to pull together. We have given ourselves the gift of accountability. We are responsible to you, so we can help the caregivers to serve as well as possible."

He explained that Planetree was a tool the hospital has used to structure patient-centered care. "It has been important to our growth, but we were patient-centered before the tool. We've been patient-centered since the 1800s. We are letting go of the tool. After eight years, we no longer need the expense or the structure. We have created our own patient-centered care and will follow the same path. We are committed to it. The focus will continue and deepen. It also allows more opportunities for you to give us feedback. We will save the expense of the program."

A question was asked about how much would be saved from cutting Planetree.

"If we had renewed it would have been $10,000," Cunningham said. "That doesn't sound like much, but the resources required to continue with Planetree and address the 70 criteria we were required to meet were extensive. It took a lot of staff resource time. We will shift that resource time to reach the top 10 percent in quality."

He explained that two part-time workers, one that was already at half-time and another who had been cut to half-time had been let go, but would have a chance to apply for other jobs within the organization.

He said another goal of the first thirty days was to address the issue of the 67 people who had been cut to half-time hours and pay.  The issue had been addressed, with about half of the caregivers being restored to fulltime, with about 17 remaining at half time, a few had left the hospital, and a handful had been let go.

Cunningham introduced Dan Otero as the Chief Operations Officer.

"I want to thank the entire organization for welcoming me back," Otero said. "I am a Silver City native and worked at Gila Regional for 14 years. When the position came open I applied for it and here I am. What does the COO do? I connect with every department to meet the needs of patients, physicians and other stakeholders. My primary goal is to remove the barriers to how you do your job. Also I want to cut out the 30 percent to 50 percent waste in all departments. Our focus is high-quality patient care, with regulations compliance up-to-date. The information system staff has the focus to give you what you need. Thank you for what you do every day. My door's open. Come see me."

He introduced Beth Allred as the Chief Financial Officer.

"I came to the hospital to work in 1992," Allred said. "I'm a true Silver City native, born at the old Hillcrest hospital. My children have all been born here, too. I have a commitment to this organization. I have a vision of a world-class healing center.

"Last fiscal year, we had a $9 million loss due to decreased reimbursements," she continued. "We're in the first two months of this fiscal year, and although we hoped to be in the black by the end of the year, we reached that goal at the end of August. We still have to explore all revenues to decrease waste and then explore avenues for more revenue. We are truly a team—Team Gila Regional."

Allred introduced the Chief Nursing Officer Pat Sheyka.

"I'm glad to be here," Sheyka said. "I'm already feeling the progress we've made. People are smiling and excited about the future. I value each person. You do make a difference. I love each one of you, and my door is open, although I might be out on the floor somewhere. Come see me."

Cunningham then answered questions he has received in email and from those attending the sessions.

"Will there be forums for input? I guarantee there will be," Cunningham said. "There will be surveys and I, too, have an open door. The directors will come to you asking questions. The same as the caregivers, we have to be nice. I will ask you how Beth's doing, and you'll be nice and say she's doing such-and-such well, but could use some help with a specific something. Our goal is to raise each other up. We will do surveys to help leadership perform better."

Joe Kellerman of the Marketing Department announced a new interim logo, as the Planetree tree had been removed from the logo.

"It will be a lengthy process getting the logo changed," Cunningham said. "It will be replaced first on the website. Continue to use the stationery and letterhead,and we will replace it as it is used up. The auxiliary and the foundation also have new logos. Human Resources will fix your badges."

Kellerman estimated the cost at about $150,000 over time to change the logo on everything that has the logo, including the front of the building and etched on glass. Cunningham said that the amount sounded like a lot, but when resources needed for the Planetree program were taken into account and put to improvement in quality of care, the expense diminished, because the people would be available for their regular work.

A caregiver asked about whether the town halls would continue and whether the caregivers would be the first to know if there were to be layoffs or drastic changes.

"If we run into troublesome problems, we have to validate the information and make sure we have an aligned strategy," Cunningham said. "We plan to continue having on or about monthly town halls. We want you to understand the key financial statements. When we see a worrisome trend, we will illuminate them, and you will be part of the solutions.

To a question about Planetree staff, Cunningham said the two remaining caregivers in the program, Howie Morales and Chaplain Bill Holguin are continuing as part of the reorganization. Morales will be director of wellness and patient-centered care. Holguin will continue as chaplain and with patient-centered care. "The resources in patient-centered care have been sized to fit the needs."

Chris Debolt, director of Health Outreach, said: "the hospital feels and sounds like the place I came to seven years ago."

"It is an inspiring journey," Cunningham said. "We're all in it together and we're going somewhere."


Cunningham told the Beat that the 30-days goals have been met. "We are in the 30-60 day process to align the leadership on projects to drive the organization, as well as identify and prioritize the key focus areas and develop the infrastructure. The 60-90 day period will be full-speed ahead doing and implementing our quality and regulatory goals. We will be working on efficiency of through-put in the emergency room, and I am already, on the side, meeting with physicians one-on-one and with as many community groups as I can."

To a question from the Beat about community feedback, he said the Community Collaborative Council is a group of ex-users of the hospital, which meets monthly to address community issues and questions. He promised more information about the group in a news release.

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