It just might take a doctor to heal a hospital
Editorial — hospital all
Patient visits and revenue were down; the billing system was in disarray; and employee morale was low. When months of promises did nothing to assuage the problems, the Plumas District Hospital board of directors looked internally and chose a popular physician, Dr. Jeff Kepple, to take over as interim chief executive officer.
Two months later, the board wants him to commit to a year. “More has been accomplished in the last two months than in the last 22 years,” said one veteran board member. While all of the problems haven’t been miraculously cured, dramatic steps have been taken — new doctors hired, management shuffled, professionals consulted and morale restored.
The enthusiasm is contagious. The hospital volunteers and foundation both made hefty donations to fund a digital mammography machine, improve the emergency area and renovate patient rooms.
But Kepple’s efforts aren’t limited to the health district’s boundaries. Tom Hayes, the CEO of Eastern Plumas Health Care, has long sought a collaborative relationship with Plumas District Hospital. Hayes maintains that rural hospitals must pool resources to survive. His past overtures to Plumas District were not embraced.
Kepple called Hayes even before he was formally appointed to CEO and the two have met several times since. That relationship has resulted in a new surgeon coming to the county who will work at both hospitals. The CEOs and their teams are visiting each other’s campuses and sharing information. “Why should our patients drive right by Portola and go to Reno if there is a specialist there?” Kepple asked. Conversely, Portola patients could use the obstetric services offered in Quincy.
Kepple and Hayes share common goals — the best patient care possible and a positive bottom line. They aren’t alone. Their counterpart in Chester, Linda Wagner, is looking toward 2015 as the first year in several for which the hospital is forecasting a net gain.
And Seneca, like Plumas District, turned to one of its health care providers to step in as CEO. Wagner had been the chief nursing officer. Though Seneca is farther removed geographically, Hayes said collaboration is still possible and can be key when negotiating rates for services such as telemedicine or for consultants, noting that three hospitals have more clout than one or two.
This new spirit of collaboration is refreshing. Rather than jealously guarding patients and information, our local hospitals are working together to provide for their communities. To remain viable, a community needs many services, and chief among them is good health care.