Hospital on search for CEO...again

by C.F. David

For the fifth time, in just over a year, the Board of Control for Cimarron Memorial Hospital is searching for a CEO.

Sharon Cox, who arrived in February and worked on a 90-day contract, vacated the position as of April 30.

Cox followed Jo Pierce, Alan Bird, and John Smith at the helm of Cimarron Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home. Another applicant, Larry Knetzer, received a green light for hire, and would have succeeded Smith; however, Knetzer had been relieved of his duties at Memorial Hospital in Dumas and could not sign a contract with Cimarron Memorial due to legal tangles.

Cox had, before her departure, presented the board a proposal whereby she would work until July then sign another contract for the duration of one year. The board chose not to respond to the offer.

Board chairman Allen Shields, answered “Yes.” When asked if the reason for Cox's leaving was that the board disagreed with her vision of where the hospital needed to be going.

However, the board did investigate and act on some of Cox's advice. Cox had advised that the board consider:

H Outsourcing Physical Therapy; this recommendation was accepted and Michael Griffith was terminated.

H Terminate Home Health and Hospice Services; this recommendation was also accepted.

The following five recommendations by Cox were not acted upon:

H Expand the Rural Health clinic into Urgent Care; close the ER and Acute care services; and evaluate adding skilled beds to the Cimarron Memorial Nursing Home. (Which would have effectively closed the hospital.)

H Financial/Business systems intervention including charge master review. (Potentially raise prices for services)

H consider Reorganization/Debt Relief options

H Explore the possibility of an ad valorem property tax. (Establish a Hospital District.)

H Evaluate the potential of VA residents in the nursing home.

Cox had told the board that the critical issues facing the hospital were:

H Cash flow- for payroll and supplies.

H Maintaining regulatory and licensing compliance.

H Liability insurance, (The facility faces a potential increase on it's premiums of $44 thousand by July 1.)

H The 2003 Cost report estimate- $20 thousand is due from the hospital. (Monies owed to Medicaid for overpayment.)

Cox concluded her report, and said that: “With careful planning, cost effective medical services can be maintained in Cimarron County.”

Cox, at the April 30 meeting told the public and the board that the hospital was as of April running $165,152 in the red; however, some of the loss had been slowed from a trend on its way to what could have been a deficit of more than $200 thousand.

Tammy Swinburne, the hospital's CFO told the group that the hospital had debts to vendors of nearly one-quarter-of-a-million dollars.

Swinburne had resigned her position, but is now reconsidering, since being asked by the hospital board to stay.

Referring to the bleak numbers, Cox said, “I don't look at these numbers dispassionately. I know they are sad numbers.'

Cox continued by saying that the trend of an aging county population was a reason for the low patient numbers, (less than three per month average for 2004).

Cox then therorized that of the county's population of just over 3 thousand, the hospital's service demographic was probably nearer 2,100 due to medical facilities nearby in Elkhart, Clayton and Guymon

In response to Cox's recommendations, the board of control released a memo to their employees and to The Boise City News.

It read:

To: All Employees

From: Cimarron Memorial Hospital Board of Control April 30, 2004

We would like to address the discussions about possible closure of the hospital or nursing home. After talking with our consultant, Cypress Health Systems, our hospital is not in a crisis. We are very viable, a going concern and will continue to operate despite a cash strapped position.

We have developed a four (4) point strategic plan which we have begun implementing today to continue the operation of the entire facility.

We, as a board, are passionate about continuing the medical services to the residents of Cimarron County now and in the future.

We want to thank the employees, County Commissioners and citizens for their support. Especially the citizens for their support by the passing of the sales tax.

Signed- Cimarron Memorial Hospital Board of Control, Alan Shields, Linda Burns, John Smith, Richard Hitchings.

The only one of the four strategic points Shields would discuss at this time, was the search for a new CEO.

Boise City News
P.O. Box 278
105 W. Main Street
Boise City, Oklahoma 73933-0278
Phone: 580 544-2222
Fax: 580 544-3281
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