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Eastern Plumas Health Care launches CEO search

Recruiting a new chief executive officer was the main topic of conversation at the Eastern Plumas Health Care Board of Directors’ meeting Sept. 30.

Andrea Usher of Hunter Ambrose Executive Search, the firm hired by EPHC, explained how the search process will work. The company is talking with employees, physicians, community members and the board to come up with a list of important characteristics for the new CEO.

Hunter Ambrose has been in business since 2006, has an office in Reno, and their specialty is rural hospitals. In addition, they have a 99 percent retention rate of CEOs placed, and they’re so confident in their placements that they have a one-year guarantee once they place a candidate.

Usher explained that CEO Nicole Barbano would be on campus Oct. 3 to discuss EPHC’s specific needs further with the board, management staff and key community members. While they already have some candidates targeted, Usher said that the candidate pool would be based on EPHC’s particular needs.

Hunter Ambrose will do the initial vetting of applicants, and then will present approximately 10 candidates in a single sit down session with the board. From that pool, the board will identify four or five for a Skype interview. Finally, two or three will be invited to come for an in-person interview.

Usher highlighted a number of qualities the hospital board has already told her would be important. They would like someone with rural experience, who can get the hospital more known in the community, who will focus on quality, who will collaborate and be open and engaging with staff and community members, and who recognizes that there are fewer levels of management in a small hospital.

At the Oct. 3 meeting, besides coming up with a definitive list of CEO qualities, Barbano and the board were expected to come up with a timeline for the search. Board Chair Jay Skutt said the Board hopes to find a new CEO as soon as possible. Usher suggested that all board members be at the meetings with her firm and with the candidates, because “the Board is held responsible, ultimately.”

Hospital operations

Interim Chief Nursing Officer Joe Pimentel reported that he is continuing to work on cutting down on overtime. He and Lorraine Noble, director of nursing (DON) of the Portola skilled nursing facility, are starting to interview DON candidates for Loyalton, and in the meantime, Noble is working as DON for both Portola and Loyalton.

The long-anticipated state approval for EPHC to run its own CNA program has come through. Feather River College students interested in becoming CNAs will now be able to train locally, and it will make it much easier for the hospital to train and then hire these candidates. Pimentel also mentioned that there is the possibility that FRC, which used to run this program, will pay for the educator/trainer that EPHC hires for the in-house program.

Clinic operations

Clinic Director Rhonda Grandi reported on her physician recruiting efforts, listing a number of providers who had applied to work at EPHC through the website. Board Director Dr. Paul Swanson remarked that the EPHC should be looking to the future and ensuring that there are enough providers. Grande responded that the clinics “are in a good place right now, especially with space constraints,” but that there could be an increase of three providers per day after the Portola clinic remodel is completed.

O’Flannagan said that the hospital is going to develop a recruitment plan, utilizing a recruitment committee to explore immediate-, short- and long-term recruiting needs. Grandi will be talking with current providers, some of whom may be nearing retirement, to see what their plans are. The recruitment plan will then be presented to the Medical Executive Committee and the board.

In other efforts to serve more patients, Director Harvey West asked if EPHC could open for clinic patients on Saturday again. Shawna Leal, representing the clinic, said that it would make sense in the summer months, but not in the off-season, because when it was tried before, very few patients utilized the service in the winter months.

Grandi also reported that the PRIME (Public Hospital Redesign and Incentives in Medi-Cal) Grant, which funded the Behavioral Health service expansion, is completing its third year of the five-year funding cycle. The program allowed California district hospitals like EPHC, which provide care to significant numbers of low-income patients and are often in rural areas, to put in place programs that the community really needs. EPHC’s “Integration of Behavioral Health and Primary Care” program is the first example of a successful PRIME program listed in the District Hospital Leadership Forum’s recent write up on PRIME, which they used at an in-person briefing with state legislative staff.

Of the PRIME project, Grandi writes that EPHC “has been able to establish [its] own behavioral health department within the primary care clinics, staffed with a licensed marriage and family therapist, RN case manager and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.”

She reports that “patients have been very responsive to seeing providers in person,” and have appreciated the safety net approach afforded by the “comprehensive case management” that is essential to the integrated care model.

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