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[Editor's Note: Corrections will be in Bold. Manis said the GRMC visitation policy will be in concurrence with other area hospitals.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The first item of business at the Gila Regional Medical Center Governing Board meeting on June 25, 2020, after Governing Board member and Grant County District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas read the GRMC mission, vision and values, was to move the item on the contract award to between public input and the executive session.

GRMC Governing Board Chair Alicia Edwards introduced Neil Todhunter, president of HealthTechS3, the health care consulting firm under consideration for the management contract at GRMC. [The S3 stands for strategy, solutions and support, according to its website.]

"Thank you for inviting us here," Todhunter said. "We've been spending a lot of time with Scott (Manis, GRMC Interim chief executive officer, from HealthTechS3). We will consider it an honor, if you accept our proposal. We've been in the hospital management business for 48 years. Most of our clients are long-term ones."

Edwards also acknowledged the expertise of GRMC Chief Quality and Compliance Officer Tanya Carroccio for her help. "This is her last meeting. She is going back to Phoenix, nearer to family. We thank her for her service to Gila Regional. Best of luck to you."

With no public input, GRMC Governing Board member and Grant County District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne moved to approve the hospital management contract with HealthTechS3.

"I would like to thank all parties for all the negotiations," Browne said.

Governing Board member and District 1 Commissioner and County Commission Chairman Chris Ponce also thanked everyone for the hard work they had put into the agreement. "Remember, we are going through this because we need hospital services for our communities in Grant County, Catron and Hidalgo counties."

Governing Board Vice Chair and District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings thanked County Manager Charlene Webb and the trustees that remain on the GRMC Board of Trustees. "Ed (Wilmot), James (Marshall) and Cindy (Moreno) made our job easier. I also thank HealthTechS3 for making it easy. I thank the staff at Gila Regional. I suppose they feel jerked around, but we want to bring stability to the hospital, so that we can have a long-term hospital for the community. I look forward to working with them in light of the misinformation that is going around. Hopefully the press will be cooperative. They have been opinionated because of the lack of information, including what HealthTechS3 is planning to do to right the ship. I also thank (Chief Financial Officer) Richard (Stokes) for helping me realize he and the hospital needed management help."

Salas also thanked the three board members for their expertise. "We have put a lot of time and effort into this. I look forward to the next few months."

The management services agreement with HealthTechS3 passed unanimously.

The governing board members went into executive session.

Following the executive session, Edwards had to leave for a time, so Billings took over the meeting.

After approval of the consent agenda of meeting minutes from May 24, June 2, June 9 and June 16, Manis presented his CEO report.

"I would like to read to you an excerpt of a letter we received from a family member of someone treated at Gila Regional to highlight some of the good things going on at the hospital and to highlight our hard-working staff," Manis said. "The letter reads in part, 'Thank you to all the staff and for your professional care, compassion and dedication during these trying times. My parents received tremendous medical care and were always treated with family-like care and tenderness. I know this because of the kindness who showed to me. What you do makes a difference. Thank you for choosing to undertake such a wonderful calling. I understand it can take a toll. Please take some strength that your efforts have not gone unnoticed nor will they be forgotten.' That last part was so meaningful to me that I immediately sent them a thank you note, and they responded in kind. What we do at the hospital does matter, as this person said. It is noticed, and we want to continue to highlight these things to our community and to our own staff."

He noted that as of that day, June 25, 2020, the county had had 17 cases of Covid. "We still have limited access for visitation at the hospital. We are working on a plan, which will probably allow a single family member to visit with restricted timing. Our policy on visitation will be in concurrence with other area hospitals, and it might be that way for the rest of the year. We are seeing elective procedures ramping up. It is safe to get care at our hospital. The recent Joint Commission survey, which we completed virtually, gave us very positive results. We had a few items that did not meet standards, but we have a plan for correction, which will be submitted. The good results place our critical access designation at the date of June 15. That is a very important date. In a comment form from a surveyor, Dr. (Tsering) Sherpa (hospitalist and infectious disease expert), was pointed out for the thoroughness of her documentation and the care and compassion she showed to families. The surveyor saw it in her documentation."

"Gila Regional has timelines for the financial change over the next six months," Manis said. "We will also apply for swing beds."

The Family Health Clinic passed its first survey for Rural Health Clinic designation and received a temporary Department of Health license. "We are awaiting the federal survey within the next two to three weeks," Manis reported. "After that, it will be designated as a Rural Health Clinic."

He noted that as of June 1, the hospital is in a contract with a group of anesthesiologists. "It will provide more continuity and coverage of anesthesia services."

"We are also continuing the path toward a Level 4 Trauma Center," Manis said. "The process started in January 2018. In 2019, we had almost 300 patients that met the criteria. Bertie Berry is our trauma coordinator preparing for the designation. Dr. Steve Kotch, emergency department medical director, has worked on it, too. We have the intent to submit the application to the state in July. There is additional funding that comes with the designation, so it's an important step."

Manis said from a financial point of view, the hospital is watching closely its uses of cash. "We have implemented a process to watch it."

Todhunter had one more thing to say: "Starting July 6, HealthTechS3 will have a team of four coming in. They include Derek Morkel, CEO of Gaffey, our revenue management portion; Carol St. Charles, Chief Clinical Nurse, who will meet with directors; Mike Lieb, to look at physician and clinical practices, and I will be here to work with Scott. We consider it a privilege to serve you, and we look forward to being here."

The rest of the reports and the meeting will continue in the next article.

Live from Silver City

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