New roof, CEO, CFO coming to hospital
Gila Regional Medical Center’s main building should have a new roof on it by next summer, according to interim CEO Scott Manis, while HealthTechS3 consultant and executive recruiter Michael Lieb told the hospital’s Governing Board that prospects are good that a permanent CEO and chief financial officer will be in place by Christmas.
“This is the long-awaited roof replacement project,” Manis told the Governing Board during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday morning, when board members approved the roofing contract and several other agreements, as well as heard financial and other reports from administrators.
Manis noted that about 25 percent of the main building’s roof was replaced several years ago, adding that “this has been lingering for probably eight to 10 years.”
The roof replacement represents the first phase of a two-part project that will be paid for through a $2.5 million federal grant. Once the $1.1 million-plus roof is finished, Manis said the remaining approximately $1.3 million will be spent on major upgrades to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
Although next July is the projected completion date, J3, the Bosque Farms roofing company that Gila Regional is contracting with, has already warned that supply chain shortages could impact the project timeline and cost.
“Their roofing materials suppliers have already informed them that they should be expecting a 6 percent increase in materials [costs], probably within the next 30 days or so,” Manis said. “We feel like we can’t wait to see what that’s gonna look like — we need to get this going.
“We can deal with those additional increases, if necessary, out of our own cash flows or through the [U.S. Economic Development Administration, the agency which awarded the $2.5 million grant],” he continued. “This is a situation they’re encountering in other similar construction grants throughout the country.”
Interim Chief Financial Officer Gregory Brickner reported that, just as in the last several months, Gila Regional remains in the black, financially. August’s ending cash balance was $12.3 million, up from $11.6 million at the beginning of the month.
“For the month of August, we turned a profit of $356,000, driven by higher revenue and lower expenses than we’d originally planned, versus last year, [when] it was a loss of $867,000,” Brickner said. “Overall, the hospital is running pretty stable.”
He said that year-to-date profits amounted to $590,000 — although wide-ranging wage increases set to take effect next month will cut into that number somewhat.
“Because of the raises we’ve done, we’ll see profit numbers drop some, but we planned for it,” Brickner said.
Each admitted patient spent an average of 2.9 days in the hospital, and Emergency Department visits in August — numbering 1,339 — were up considerably over the same month last year, when 1,051 people were seen in the emergency room, according to Brickner’s report.
Not a word was spoken during Tuesday’s meeting regarding Gila Regional’s overall capacity to accept patients right now, patient census statistics or the impact that the latest surge in COVID-19 infections is having on the hospital, although Manis did report that the vaccination rate among hospital staff was still at around 87 percent.
Manis said that most of the remaining unvaccinated employees have submitted health or religious exemptions, and are following a regular weekly testing protocol in order to remain on the job.
A hospital spokesperson told the Daily Press that “COVID admissions remain on average what they have been,” i.e., not overwhelming. From Sept. 5-18, for example, there were a total of five COVID-19 patients treated in the ICU.
“None of the five in the ICU were critically ill,” the spokesperson said. “The average COVID-19 census in the facility during that same time frame was 1.28 patients, with no COVID-19 patients in the Med/Surg Unit.”
This week, “the hospital in general is fuller, with three ICU beds and one med/surg bed available” as of Tuesday morning, the spokesperson said.
Thanks to staffing shortages that have severely impacted hospitals throughout the country, Gila Regional currently has a total of 13 staffed medical/surgical beds and six staffed ICU beds. Were it fully staffed, Gila Regional has on the order of 25 med/surg beds along with the six in the ICU.
HealthTechS3 was hired by Grant County commissioners-cum-Governing Board members to manage the troubled county-owned hospital, and since pulling Gila Regional back from the brink of closure last year has been working to improve patient billing and records systems, staff morale, hospital infrastructure and a host of other priorities.
Under the company’s leadership, the hospital is undertaking a human resources assessment, the development of a new strategic plan, providing support to revenue cycle staff and “coding trainings” coordinated through case managers with Emergency Department physicians, hospitalists and others at the hospital itself, and separately with physicians and managers at Gila Regional clinics outside the main facility.
Lieb reported that the hospital’s search for a permanent CEO and CFO should be completed soon, with the hope being that both positions are filled by the end of the year.
“Our third CEO candidate will be here in two weeks, and we have CFO candidates being screened now,” Lieb told the Governing Board, which is responsible for hiring the top executive.
Governing Board member Harry Browne asked Lieb if “the hired CEO will end up having a voice” in the CFO hiring process.
“Assuming we get the CEO set up shortly, we’ll put them into the interview mix as well,” Lieb said. “The hope is to get both these guys home by Christmas.”
Lieb added that, under the terms of the HealthTechS3 management contract, “a HealthTech employee” will make the ultimate decision on who is hired as CFO, but indicated that the Governing Board’s input will also be considered.