Hospital looking to turn corner

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The administrator of Plains Regional Medical Center said Wednesday the hospital failed in several areas this year, but officials are committed to improving performance.

“We have had so many public failures this year. It’s sad,” Administrator Hoyt Skabelund said during a presentation to Clovis News Journal staff.

Hospital inspections spurred by complaints, breaches in federal health care regulations, financial trouble and high employee turnover rates topped the list of issues that plagued the hospital in 2006, Skabelund said.

“This has been a really hard year for us,” he said.

Among hospitals in the nation, PRMC ranks in the 28th percentile for overall patient satisfaction. Overall employee satisfaction has dropped slightly in the past year. In a 2006 survey, PRMC overall employee satisfaction ranked in the 71st percentile nationally, down from the 78th percentile in 2005.

PRMC employee turnover rates doubled from 2004 to 2006, spiking from about 15 percent to about 30 percent, according to data presented by Skabelund.

That rate is unprecedented at PRMC, said Skabelund, who aims to reduce it to 13 percent and raise satisfaction rankings.

Hospital revenue is down by $4.5 million from last year due to a loss of doctors, according to Skabelund. Officials expect a $2.7 million in profit for 2007, thanks to recent staff cuts and plans to recruit more doctors. But that planned profit would be more if not for an anticipated net revenue loss of about $10 million next year with the arrival of the Surgery Center of Eastern New Mexico, which opened this month in Clovis.

Cash reserves — which total $60 million and have been gleaned from 25 years of profitable operation — will be relied on to keep PRMC afloat, the administrator said.

“You save that for a rainy day, and that rainy day is now,” Skabelund, 37, said. “This is the rainiest day this hospital has ever seen.”

But plans are in place to restore the financial health of the hospital.
“If you don’t make money, you can’t sustain any business,” Skabelund said.

Skabelund, named PRMC administrator in May, said the job has been more challenging than he anticipated. But the grandson of a dairy farmer said, “I do think I can turn things around.”

PRMC cut 38 positions this fall. Of 38 people whose positions were cut, at least 19 will remain in other positions at PRMC, Skabelund said.

The hospital is recruiting orthopedists and urologists. Technology at the hospital and procedures, especially for documentation, are being strengthened. An expansion of the geriatrics unit is on the horizon, Skabelund said.

“We want patients to really want to come to our hospital rather than that’s the only ship in town, so you have to,” Skabelund said.

“Every patient I see in the hallway is my family,” he said. “That’s one of the cultures I am trying to create with the staff.”

A formal, written report on the most recent, September inspection of PRMC — prompted by a patient complaint — hasn’t been submitted to PRMC, and PRMC hasn’t heard word on whether it will be fined for hazardous waste from the hospital recently found at the Clovis landfill, Skabelund said.

PRMC employs 650 people, according to Skabelund, and serves more than 110,000 people living within a 100-mile radius of the city of Clovis, according to its Web site.
The non-profit hospital is owned by Presbyterian Healthcare Services of New Mexico.