Members of the East Phillips County Hospital District Board of s shared deep concerns at the Tuesday, Aug. 25, board meeting regarding the importance of rebuilding the relationship between community members of Holyoke and Melissa Memorial Hospital.
Citing the public outcry at the May board meeting in which several citizens vocalized various clinical concerns, nurse practitioner Deaun Carpenter stated that the issue has only snowballed over the past three months.
“It’s obvious we’ve taken a hit, and people are unhappy with us here,” Carpenter acknowledged. “They’re unhappy, and they’re going away. It’s going to take a lot of hard work on everybody’s part to get things back on track.”
Clinic director Sheila Robinson reviewed Sigma Med’s report on the hospital clinic. Robinson noted that the consulting organization’s Lean Six Sigma was utilized to increase MMH’s capacity to see more patients.
“We wanted to show improvement, and it’s working,” Robinson said. “Sigma Med helped get us started, but probably 90 percent was us, our team.”
The clinic’s capacity has improved as the daily average has increased from about 10 patients per day per provider to upwards of 14. And the lag of getting a patient on the schedule for a visit has been reduced from six days down to one.
However, MMH hasn’t necessarily seen an increase in visits, according to Jim Murphy, interim hospital administrator, as he said, “We have got to analyze what’s going on.”
Board member Mike Woodhead was adamant about MMH needing to put patients first and developing trusting relationships between patients and staff.
“All areas are service,” Woodhead said. “It’s the whole picture. We’re the same as a restaurant, and it’s a reputation we’ve got to build back up.”
Murphy echoed Woodhead’s statement, saying, “The best marketing in health care is word of mouth. When it’s a positive experience, patients are going to tell others about it, and the same when it’s negative.”
Murphy also pointed out that rural communities statewide, not just in Holyoke, are losing patients to hospitals in bigger cities. Many are believed to be shopping for best prices on out-patient procedures.
“The patient is the customer, and that’s who we need to please,” said board member Gary Rahe. “I think we’ve maybe lost sight of that, and we need to do things differently in this community.”
The question of “What are goals we can set to improve relationships and efficiencies?” was asked by interim chief financial officer Jason McCormick.
This thorough discussion followed board conversation about whether or not to include spouses and children on employee insurance policies. The matter of insurance coverage is to be discussed further at a future meeting.
Noting that Carpenter had also mentioned the hospital has been short-handed lately due to continual turnover of employees, board members Woodhead and Sheila Gift posed the possibility that the board might need to look into increasing the salary base or really consider additions to the insurance policy.
“Our salary pay might be right in line, but the cost to keep employees here might need consideration,” Woodhead said, declaring that it’s not necessarily cheap to live in Holyoke. “When adding on out here, if we can’t staff this facility, it’s just going to be a building. Everyone likes progress, but no one wants to change.”
Being in agreement that more thorough discussion and action is needed, the board expects to continue on this topic in the near future as well.
CEO search continues
Board president Steve Young announced that members of a CEO search committee recently conducted a conference call with representatives from B.E. Smith, the health care executive search firm with which MMH has partnered to find a replacement for former hospital administrator and CEO John Ayoub.
Young described that the call allowed B.E. Smith to get a general feel of the operations and what’s going on at MMH. He said the firm will soon be getting information from Human Resources Director Sharon Greenman concerning job description details.
The board expects to have representatives from B.E. Smith come to Holyoke sometime between Sept. 15-17. These representatives plan to meet with board members, other hospital staff, community leaders, etc. to develop a better working relationship and to understand the needs of the community and direction of the hospital.
Facility plan is in financing stage
Progress on the facility expansion and remodeling plan is still in the financing stage and is progressing, albeit slowly.
McCormick said the ability to move forward with financing has been hinging on two points. The first is finalizing a request from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to make additions to the current facility structure. The second is to show that MMH has been in compliance on various financial measures.
McCormick also said the Neenan Company, which will be handling the construction side of the project, has been having difficulties finding suitable costs on sheetrock and foundation materials.
“Things are progressing, but it’s going to take a few weeks since things are still not approved,” McCormick noted. “It’s not necessarily a full delay. It just takes time. With changes in weather approaching, it’s kind of discouraging, but we will still keep pushing.”
Carpenter expressed concern that, though the expansion plans call for more clinic rooms, the plans don’t reflect additional restrooms.
“We might want to reconsider that because the current setup is already somewhat difficult,” Carpenter said. “When looking at the schematic, maybe it’s there and I’m not seeing it.”
Murphy said the plans had been given to all of the providers for review, but he would certainly be open to meeting with Carpenter and whoever else to discuss these and other concerns.
MMH has strong revenue month
McCormick noted that the hospital recently experienced a “strong revenue month” resulting in a positive bottom line.
Budgeted net income for the month was $45,000, and actual net income amounted to $86,000.
In other business Aug. 25, the board:
—heard a quality committee report as presented by nursing director Pat Notter.
—agreed to pay an invoice for $20,000 in retainer services through Red Capital.
—held a one-hour executive session at the end of the meeting for discussion of two contract negotiations.
Holyoke Enterprise September 3, 2015