Features GRMC Interim CEO Greg Brickner

By Mary Alice Murphy

[Editor's Note; This author had to leave for a dental appointment, so some of the notes from which this article is written were taken by Lynn Janes, Beat reporter.]

img 5811 NFIB NM Director Jason Espinoza presents Guardian of Small Business Award to Rep. Luis Terrazas. NFIB NM Director Jason Espinoza presents Guardian of Small Business Award to Rep. Luis Terrazas.

Before the featured speaker, Jason Espinoza, New Mexico state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, presented an award. He explained that the non-profit, non-partisan advocates for small business.

"We are pleased to present this NFIB Guardian of Small Business Award to Rep. Luis Terrazas," Espinoza said. "He votes consistently in support of small businesses. This award signifies that Rep. Terrazas is a legislator that small business can count on. During Covid, we needed a voice in the Legislature and he provided that voice. We thank him for his service. He has a 100 percent voting record for small business and the NFIB."

Terrazas said: "This is really an honor. I know what it is like to not be able to afford a single employee and then to be able to meet payroll."

He introduced his wife, Mandee, and Dana, his campaign manager, as he runs to retain his seat.

"My parents always taught us to honor, respect and take care of others," Terrazas said. "My dad allowed me to make mistakes as I went through my learning process." He also introduced Mike Morones, who was present and serves as Terrazas' campaign treasurer. "We grew up together."

Chamber Director Romeo Cruz then introduced Gila Regional Medical Center Interim Chief Executive Officer Greg Brickner.

"The first time I was here, I served as the interim chief financial officer for 14 months," Brickner said. "This is week seven of my tenure as CEO. I thank you and the community for welcoming me back. Because you are business owners, I will talk about the business of the hospital."

He gave several statistics, including the number 78,889 as the number of patient encounters in a year at GRMC. "Not all of them are patients. Doctors may refer them to our labs. Every one of these encounters is different. It is unique to the person."

Brickner noted that the hospital for this year has a trailing capital investment of $2.7 million, which includes a new roof, partially funded through a USDA grant with funding from the hospital, and a new 3-D Mammogram, which was coming. "It is state-of-the-art technology."

He said, as in most business, labor costs take up a large chunk of the budget. For the last fiscal year, the hospital paid out $42.5 million in labor expenses, which includes a lot of contract labor. "That is 17 percent more than the prior year."

Brickner said headlines show that many small hospitals are scaling back their services. The hospital in Gallup closed its labor and delivery department. He noted that revenues are staying steady, but expenses are increasing, and "you hope you can raise the prices. Half of our patients are on Medicare or Medicaid. In 2019, we applied to become a critical access hospital, and we achieved the status in 2020. Critical access status allows us to receive 101 percent of costs from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid). That allows us in rural hospitals to be able to continue to provide care for our patients. However, the government set up budget sequestration of 2 percent, so we get 99 percent of costs. It could grow to 4 percent in the next few years. We're fighting for our business just like you are."

He said he was happy to announce that the Cancer Center is back in house. "We have started to see new patients for radiation oncology, with a new radiation oncologist Dr. Cherie Hayostek. Nurse Practitioner Karen DeGenevieve is back with us for radiation oncology, and we brought Mike Torres back to be the Cancer Center Director. We are close to having a medical oncologist, who is waiting on licensing in New Mexico. We continue to recruit providers for the hospital and are hoping to soon have accepted a contract for a general surgeon. Staff retention is key, as all hospitals are looking for skilled labor. I believe we are the best business to work for in the county. We have brought local people in, who have worked their way up to administrative positions. Denice Baird of Cliff started her career here and worked her way up to Chief Quality Officer."

"We are conserving cash, as we can," Brickner said. "We are one of only seven hospitals within 200 miles to achieve a 4-star quality rating from CMS. We are one of only two in the entire state of New Mexico. You have no reason to go to Albuquerque or Tucson for basic services. We are as highly or more highly rated."

He noted when he left in February after his stint as interim CFO, "I said: 'Someone has to say: 'I love my hospital.' So, I said it. I still do."

Brickner said he and other administration leaders are trying to round on every patient coming into the facility. "It's a high spot in my day."

Terrazas asked Brickner about HB 75, which addressed medical malpractice and raised the limits. "I didn't support it. I did ask for an amendment, but it was not accepted."

Brickner said because the limits increased to a high liability, "we are adding physicians to our hospital malpractice policies. It has to be designed to keep doctors here."

Terrazas noted that physicians can no longer afford to practice alone, because of the high cost of malpractice insurance.

Brickner agreed and said the entire country has a shortage of physicians. "With this legislation, we've given them a reason not to come to New Mexico."

On a different topic, Brickner said the hospital had received $450,000 in capital outlay for a new Women's Services Center. "Capital outlay has been good to us. We're hoping to get a new MRI machine."

A Humana agent said the only oncologist in Deming lost his license. "I'm super happy that you are going to have oncology here. Will you market to Deming and Columbus?"

Brickner said the entire regional community has a need for oncology. "But as a critical access hospital, we cannot do marketing. Catron County is also part of our community."

In answer to a question about the Center for Disease Control lifting the mask mandate and how it affects the hospital, Brickner said yes, the CDC relaxed the mask mandate, but CMS has not, "so we still require masks in the facility. As soon as CMS drops the mandate, we will, too."

Bruce Ashburn of PNM said: "We are a unique community, and I'm personally interested in the success of the hospital going forward. From what is being shown, the hospital is not making enough money to keep up with the technological advances that are necessary. You are not self-sufficient."

Brickner said capital outlay does not support operations, but "we receive enough revenue to support operations. Grants and capital outlay provide for our infrastructure needs."

Ashburn said: "We need to be more vocal with our representatives and Legislature that we need that capital outlay. Let us know what we need to do as businesses and as the chamber."

Brickner said getting rid of the sequestration would be a huge step forward.

Terrazas noted that each legislative representative receives about $1.5 million for "about $100 million in requests. There is so much need in the state and it's important for you to advocate to us."

Ashburn said people need to understand how important the hospital is to the growth of the community, "and we can't lose it."

The Humana agent asked about GRMC care as compared to Las Cruces hospitals.

Brickner said: "Equal or better. We have just installed a new non-invasive diagnostic machine to determine if heart issues require surgery or can be addressed here in town."

The agent asked the hospital to do some education or community presentations on services that GRMC has, and Brickner agreed it was needed.

An announcement was made that the chamber would be again holding its awards ceremony, this year on Dec. 1, 2022. Forms for nominations for the different awards were on the tables or can be accessed on the chamber website at silvercity.org.

Cruz also recognized new chamber members and presented them with certificates.

He also recognized the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1329, representatives from United Health Care and José Ray for putting on Carnitas y Mas.

Under community announcements, several members spoke.

Cheryl and Ray Curell of United Health Care had an announcement. "With any hospitalization, there are always bills, and we want to help get those paid," Cheryl said. "It is Medicare enrollment time, and we will be at Walgreen's and at the chamber to provide help and teach people about the Medicare options."

A man who had moved to Silver City from Phoenix, AZ, said he would be participating with "BeWell NM," for which enrollment starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 15. He noted that about 800 people in Grant County had been put on Medicaid during the pandemic. "Orders are not to recertify those people, but they can transition to BeWell NM, but they must take action to do so."

Emily Gojkovich of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments said representatives of the COG would attend the state convention and would receive an award for the region for the program Co-Starters. "We have put 137 through the program, and 71 have started new businesses. We will start the program again in January. We will also be starting the Hurley comprehensive plan. Any non-profits that would like to have input on that plan, please contact me."

Sandy Feutz of the Grant County Art Guild noted a silent auction would be part of the upcoming Weekend at the Galleries.

Cruz said the chamber is working on business retention. "I you know anyone that needs help, please contact us. We want to keep all our businesses and grow them."

He noted Saturday night would feature Light Up the Night in the chamber parking lot, which honors fallen firefighters across the nation by lighting up firefighting trucks' red lights.

Cruz thanked everyone for coming.

Content on the Beat

WARNING: All articles and photos with a byline or photo credit are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Disclaimer: If you find errors in articles not written by the Beat team but sent to us from other content providers, please contact the writer, not the Beat. For example, obituaries are always provided by the funeral home or a family member. We can fix errors, but please give details on where the error is so we can find it. News releases from government and non-profit entities are posted generally without change, except for legal notices, which incur a small charge.

NOTE: If an article does not have a byline, it was written by someone not affiliated with the Beat and then sent to the Beat for posting.

Images: We have received complaints about large images blocking parts of other articles. If you encounter this problem, click on the title of the article you want to read and it will take you to that article's page, which shows only that article without any intruders. 

New Columnists: The Beat continues to bring you new columnists. And check out the old faithfuls who continue to provide content.

Newsletter: If you opt in to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option above this to the right, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Submitting to the Beat

Those new to providing news releases to the Beat are asked to please check out submission guidelines at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/about/submissions. They are for your information to make life easier on the readers, as well as for the editor.

Advertising: Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the Beat.

Classifieds: We have changed Classifieds to a simpler option. Check periodically to see if any new ones have popped up. Send your information to editor@grantcountybeat.com and we will post it as soon as we can. Instructions and prices are on the page.

Editor's Notes

It has come to this editor's attention that people are sending information to the Grant County Beat Facebook page. Please be aware that the editor does not regularly monitor the page. If you have items you want to send to the editor, please send them to editor@grantcountybeat.com. Thanks!

Here for YOU: Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News. Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com

Feel free to notify editor@grantcountybeat.com if you notice any technical problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.  The Beat totally appreciates its readers and subscribers!  

Compliance: Because you are an esteemed member of The Grant County Beat readership, be assured that we at the Beat continue to do everything we can to be in full compliance with GDPR and pertinent US law, so that the information you have chosen to give to us cannot be compromised.