The mood was noticeably lighter Tuesday night as the Ector County Hospital District board of directors met for the first time with the new president and CEO of Medical Center Health System Rick Napper.
District 1 Board Member Bryn Dodd said she thinks the different atmosphere could be a result of a sense of relief.
“There is finally someone with a sense of urgency who sees the issues,” she said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Jokes were cracked — and possibly a podium, too — as Napper dug awards out from under the podium’s shelf, accidentally dismantling the shelf in the process, as he presented Employee of the Year and Employee of the Month awards.
Napper recovered quickly and lightheartedly, letting the board know it was likely stuff like that would happen often. But he was all business when it came to letting everyone know what he’s been up to for the past 13 days since joining the Medical Center Health System team and, as he stressed, joining the Odessa community.
In the past two weeks Napper has met face to face with more than 500 people including board members, community leaders, physicians and 11 employee focus groups so far, each with about 55 employees per focus group. He’s been up at the hospital greeting employees at 4:30 a.m. on their way into work, dining in the cafeteria, and is in the lobby area again at 6 p.m., talking to employees before the day’s end.
More than just making his face be known, Napper presented his plan Tuesday to help the hospital not only financially, but to regain credibility, viability and sustainability, he said. His plans include creating an I-CARE task force with the purpose of establishing the first phase of his transition here — re-establishing credibility.
“And what I mean by re-establishing that credibility is this task force will analyze what we do as an operation and determine how we move forward to re-stabilize such things as our financial, our employee relationships, our relationship with the community and to establish ground upon which we will be going into the future to be even more successful than we are today,” he said.
There are seven parts to the puzzle.
One. Organizational structure. Napper said they need to look at how administration supports the functions of the facility.
Two. Finance and establishing plans of how to stabilize financials while looking at the implementation of a very difficult information technology transition, he said. The problems happening in the health system’s IT transition are not uncommon in the healthcare industry, Napper said.
“Let me say that again. The things that we are experiencing happen at almost every organization across the country,” he said. “It’s how you handle those things that determine where you go.”
Three. Revenue cycle and how to make improvements to it, Napper said, adding that they need to be paid for the services they are providing and get that money in.
Four. Supply chain management and how supplies are handled.
Five. Managed Care. A team will be assigned to specifically look at this portion of the puzzle, Napper said, because he believes they need more guidance and direction in their managed care contracting, how they are being paid, if they are getting paid what was agreed upon with companies and if they are being paid appropriately.
Six. Labor and productivity.
“I am not a fan of across-the-board cuts,” Napper said. “Those have a tendency to punish those that have performed well and they have a tendency to let those that are not performing off of the hook.”
Seven. The final piece of the puzzle will be service line management. At some point in the future for the health system’s sustainability, Napper said he will be looking at service line management and how they can improve the major service lines they support.
A team to focus on service line management will not be established some of the other issues have been resolved, he said, adding that some of the growth strategies he has in mind would be ineffective if they put it in their current process.
“…and I don’t want to go back and rebuild this again. We’re gonna do it one time and we’re gonna do it right and we’re gonna resolve the issues,” Napper said.
The new CEO also talked about the plan he has laid out to energize the employees, which is one of the reasons he is there at 4 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“It’s because there are 2,200 employees that are dependent upon my plan. If that plan fails, I fail 2,200 employees,” he said.
At the end of the presentation, District 7 Board Member Ben Quiroz said with those kinds of goals, Napper has the full support of the board.
“I already feel the full support of the board and I can tell you from standing at the door welcoming employees to this organization, I think the employees themselves are behind me and encouraging me every day. I will not let them down and I will not let you down,” Napper said.
Board President Mary Thompson also thanked Napper and said she was impressed with what he was doing.
“This is where we need to go. This is where we should have been long before this,” Thompson said.
After the meeting, Thompson said she believes the leadership they’ve had in the past has been good, but there is always room for improvement and she believes Napper will take MCHS to a whole new level of where the organization needs to be.
“I have seen that we could be better through like TCHT, Texas Health Care Trustees, but I think, you know, when you do things for so long in the same way, that’s just the way you do it. So he’s going to lead us and open our eyes and lead us in a new direction.
Dodd said she has heard nothing but great things about Napper.
“Everybody’s happy that he’s here. He’s making changes, which that’s what everybody said needed to happen, and he has a plan.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS
District 3 board member Richard Herrera was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting due to a medical procedure, Thompson said. It is the second meeting he has missed since he was re-appointed to the seat in October.
After his absence at last month’s meeting, fellow board members said that night they were unaware of why he did not show up. He later told the OA he had some “personal issues” and was unable to attend. Herrera was heavily scrutinized before being re-appointed in October with a 4-2 vote because he stopped attending meetings while serving on the board, which he said was due to medical issues.
On Tuesday, Thompson assigned Herrera to the bylaws committee and MCH/Tech coordinating committee to serve as a replacement for former District 3 board member Adela Vasquez.
The board members who were present approved all agenda items presented Tuesday unanimously, including the following:
>> New committee assignment.
>> An interlocal agreement and request to sell property.
>> Investment policy annual review and approval.
>> MRO Release of Information Online Agreement.
>> Finance and Executive Committee reports.
Medical Center Health Systems Chief Executive Officer and President Rick Napper speaks at his first Ector County Hospital Board meeting Tuesday at MCH. Napper recently took over for Bill Webster who retired this month.
BY MARK STERKEL