Photos (at the end of article) and article by Mary Alice Murphy

After Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees members read the mission, vision and values of the hospital and approved the agenda at their monthly meeting on Oct. 25, 2023, the trustees recognized several people for their years of service at the hospital.

Samineo Barion received recognition for his 5 years of service in Rehabilitation Services; Zeidy Jordan for serving 5 years in the Cancer Center; Dr. Gregory Iwaasa for 5 years in Gila Foot and Ankle; Brenna Brown for 10 years in Beginning Years; Maria Ortiz for 15 years in Dietary; and Denice Baird for 25 years of service in regulatory compliance during her second stint at Gila Regional.

Several trustees and Health Tech representatives attended the meeting via video. Vice President Betty Vega, who led the meeting, and Secretary Pat McIntire attended in person, as did Interim Chief Executive Officer Margie Molitor.. Trustee Javier Salas came in person late. On video were trustees President Dr. Fred Fox, Seth Traeger, and Will Hawkins. Incoming CEO Robert Whitaker and Health Tech representative Patrick Banks, who had officially resigned from GRMC as of Oct. 31, moved away and gone to work for Health Tech, the hospital's management company, also attended via video. Banks will remain connected with GRMC in his new role, he has said.

Trustees approved four items under the consent agenda. The first is typical as they approved the minutes taken at the last meeting and the special meeting.

The other three items considered and approved included1) the amendment to the Emergency Department coverage services agreement. Traeger asked about this issue and Molitor answered that the amendment allows that providers, working for the contracted company ESS, will receive payment for their travel; 2) amendment to the professional services agreement for the laboratory medical director; and 3) an amendment for the Laboratory professional services agreement.

Chief Nursing Officer Ron Green noted this was his first board meeting as CNO. "I've known many of you for many years. I am a proud product of Silver Schools and the Western New Mexico University nursing department. I am very honored to be your CNO. My last job here was as director of clinical operations.

He noted that Dana Andazola will oversee the Gila Family Medicine Clinic, which recently had a survey and passed it "with flying colors. The clinic is now accredited for the next three years as a Rural Health Clinic. In February, we will have a new pediatrician, Dr. Herr. In surgical services, Gila Foot and Ankle and Gila Orthopedics welcomed Dr. Carreon in July. The Cancer Center medical oncology and radiation oncology are growing in the number of patients from all four counties of Grant, Catron, Hidalgo and Luna, under Director Mike Torres. I am happy to have proven leaders in these clinics."

Shifting to the CNO position, "this is my second week addressing the hospital environment and the clinics. I am having one-on-ones with the directors. One of my areas of focus is what I call the 3 Rs—retention, recruitment and reducing contract labor. I am working with HR (human resources) and looking at open positions and streamlining the process."

Green said now that the swing bed program is certified, "today we have our first patient moving into a swing bed. We're excited by this patient going from acute care to skilled nursing. I would like to recognize all the hard work the county and the governing board have done to preserve this hospital. In my role, I will do my utmost to provide the patient-centered care and strengthen it as we go forward."

Chief of Staff Dr Colicia Meyerowitz said Green was one of the first people she came in contact with at the hospital when she arrived to practice in Silver City 20 years ago. She would give her report in executive session.

The Interim Chief Financial Officer Leonard Binkley said it was his third week at the hospital. He noted that discharges for the month of September were down 2 percent to budget, but with 117 during the month, it was up 7 percent this year. With 208 surgeries, the number was down 17 percent to budget, and down 20 percent from the prior year. "We had an increase for the month in outpatients at 393, up 8 percent to budget and up 9 percent from the previous year. In the ER (emergency room), we were down 7 from budget and 20 down from the prior year. We have an average run rate of 48 daily. With a $75,000 operations loss, we missed our budget. Last year, we had a surplus. The reason for our volumes being down was a significant dip in surgeries. We had an increase of cancer drugs They are expensive, with one at $159,000 a dose and we had two that were more at $7390,000 a dose. We have an uptick in contract labor in the lab, the OR and Cancer Center. We're working through that."

Molitor noted that the hospital would receive some reimbursement for the cancer drugs. "It will show up when we do next year's cost benefit report. And the reason for the drop in surgeries was vacations taken by surgeons."

Binkley noted that year-to-date, the hospital had a surplus of $659,000, "which is good news compared to last year. We are doing better. The miss is driven by the big medicine costs in September."

Fox asked if the drugs were primarily charged to Medicare or other private insurance.

Binkley said it was a mix, but most of the hospital's patients are on Medicare and Medicaid, with some on private insurance.

Molitor assured the trustees that the hospital would recoup some of the expenses next year in the cost benefit report.

Balls noted that some of the insurance is also Medicare Advantage. "What's relevant is the cost. We can expect about 40 percent back."

Binkley said the days of cash on hand stood at 135, "which is much better than our 98 last year. We are on our way to our official goal of 180 days cash on hand."

Molitor in her CEO report said that on leadership recruitment "my No. 1 goal when I came here in February was to be your last interim CEO. With your leadership, we have accomplished that goal. Robert Whitaker will begin on Oct. 30, which will allow a few days of hand-off before I head back to Wyoming and retirement —just in time for winter."

She noted that Green had accepted the offer to be permanent CNO. "As you know he is a native of Silver City and brings a wealth of experience. He began in the position on Oct. 15. Richard Platt began as HR director in September. The Interim Medical Staff Services Director Tonya Barnes-Grant began in late September. The Interim Surgical Services Director Jerry Effner began on Sept. 25, 2023. The Lab Director Steven Duncan began Oct. 15, and Scott McKibbin has accepted the permanent Pharmacy Director, with a tentative start date of Nov. 6."

She noted that the employment engagement survey would be done between Nov. 13 and Dec. 6 and employees would have a department pumpkin decorating contest, a costume contest, and a Christmas party is planned for employees.. In leadership development, "we hosted our second quarter leadership development institute on Sept. 28."

Molitor said in an effort to assess the hospital's market competitiveness, "we have contracted with a third party to complete a compensation survey for all regular positions at Gila Regional. All information has been uploaded and the kick-off meeting with the vendor is set for Oct. 31. We hope to have the results available by the end of the year."

Under operations, she reported that ESS, the Emergency Department provider group assumed coverage on Oct. 1.

"We continue to wait for Trane to provide the scope of work for the air handler in the operating room," Molitor said. "When we receive the final cost report, we will send it to the state for grant approval before beginning the project."

She noted they had had a walk-through with local subcontractors and GC SDV Construction out of Albuquerque for the Maternal and Child Department renovation construction. "YearOut has notified us they have building permits. We still do not have final Department of Health approval, but we do have Construction Industries Division approval. My goal is to have everything in place before I leave so Robert can walk it over the goal line."

Molitor also said the final quote for nurse call light replacement had been submitted to the state for grant approval. "Once we have approval, we plan to start in early 2024, due to other projects going on for the rest of 2023."

"Thanks to the hard work of our team, we successfully completed our integrated and parallel testing for Meditech Expanse, with training scheduled for Oct. 23-27 and a Go Live date of Nov. 7," she reported. "We will also offer remote training Oct. 30-Nov. 4."

The Pod 3 renovation continues for the Gila Foot and Ankle Clinic, she said.

Molitor also announced that Dr. Herr, pediatrician, had signed his agreement and will begin practice in the Family Practice Clinic Feb. 4 or 5. "He will provide primarily clinic care, but also participate in the hospital pediatric hospitalist coverage."

She noted they were still waiting on confirmation regarding Senate approval to purchase a new MRI. "We have a quote ready and waiting."

On community involvement, Molitor said that Drs. Iwaasa and Carreon had presented short topics at the Mimbres Health Fair. The annual Trunk or Treat would take place Halloween in the parking lot and that Friday, Oct. 27, the GRMC Foundation would host the Ruby and Scrubs Gala at the Murray Hotel.

Fox said: "I really appreciate all your effort and dedication. You helped the transition to a permanent CEO."

Vega noted they had a gift for Molitor of a pot created by Joseph Holguin.

After opening it, Molitor said: "It is beautiful. Thank you."

"You have taken us many steps forward," Vega said.

Banks presented the HealthTech report. "I occasionally take Scott (VP) Manis' place at these meetings. Welcome to Robert. He attended the Health Tech CEOs meeting in Illinois with other Health Tech CEOs and the Health Tech team where they worked to foster best practices. Thank you to Margie. Your approach while at Gila Regional was excellent. We're moving on the CFO position. Robert will be involved as we bring candidates."

He said Health Tech moved the hospital to getting bills out the door in an efficient manner. "Now we are looking to help you with income optimization. The swing bed program will go into the payor mix. We are going to change the outpatient clinic to an outpatient department. It will be better for the hospital bottom line. I am happy with the progress."

Carolyn St. Charles said she wanted to welcome Whitaker and Green to their new positions. "I plan to attend the December board meeting to help you. I want to be a resource for you. Scott sent his regards from someplace in Europe."

Banks said either he or Scott would attend the board meetings.

The trustees went into executive session to consider the Medical Executive Committee credentialing recommendations and to consider approval of a bid for the Pod 3 renovation. Both were approved in open session after the executive session. They adjourned from the open meeting.

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