Lead­er­ship amid tur­moil

Price pro­vides a steady hand dur­ing ex­ec­u­tive, board turnover

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL FEATURE -

David Price, a lawyer, joined the board of di­rec­tors of Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal in Jan­uary 2006 just as the or­ga­ni­za­tion was ca­reen­ing to­ward fail­ure. Within a year of his ar­rival, the top ex­ec­u­tive of the Grand Junc­tion, Colo.-based hospi­tal quit; a vice pres­i­dent was el­e­vated to pres­i­dent and CEO, and the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer left shortly af­ter­ward. In spring of 2007, the CEO and the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer be­gan a co-man­age­ment ar­range­ment, which fell apart al­most im­me­di­ately, cul­mi­nat­ing with the decision of the board in July 2007 to fire both of them.

As if that wasn’t stress­ful enough, the board in 2007 also dis­closed vol­un­tar­ily to HHS’ of­fice of the in­spec­tor gen­eral pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of fed­eral anti-kick­back statutes for such deals as med­i­cal-of­fice space leased to physi­cians at be­low mar­ket value.

In De­cem­ber 2007, three board mem­bers re­signed, leav­ing the board with­out enough of­fi­cers to run meet­ings. Since no one else wanted to fill the lead­er­ship vac­uum, Price vol­un­teered to serve as board chair­man and sub­se­quently helped lead a turn­around of the ail­ing hospi­tal.

For his ac­com­plish­ments, Price, 52, whose term on the board ex­pired in Jan­uary, has been se­lected as the 2012 Trustee of the Year for a small hospi­tal—those with fewer than 100 beds. Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal cur­rently staffs 46 beds.

The first step to­ward sta­bil­ity un­der Price’s lead­er­ship oc­curred in Jan­uary 2008, when the board of trus­tees hired Quo­rum Health Re­sources, a hospi­tal man­age­ment com­pany. Chris Thomas, a Quo­rum em­ployee, ar­rived in Grand Junc­tion as the per­ma­nent pres­i­dent and CEO in April 2008.

As Prices ex­plains, the hospi­tal’s board mem­bers re­al­ized “that we needed some help and some folks that had na­tional ex­per­tise.”

The board also over­hauled the hospi­tal’s gov­er­nance struc­ture. Be­fore the change, the med­i­cal staff ap­pointed all trus­tees and ap­proved all ma­jor de­ci­sions. For ex­am­ple, the med­i­cal staff ap­proved the decision to hire Quo­rum. “You had to con­vene a meet­ing of the med­i­cal staff and garner a ma­jor­ity vote, which was ex­tremely cum­ber­some and ex­pen­sive,” Price says.

Un­der the new struc­ture—which the med­i­cal staff ap­proved in a 66-9 vote—the board se­lects its own mem­bers, de­vel­ops the hospi­tal’s over­all strat­egy and ap­proves ma­jor de­ci­sions. Physi­cians hold five of the board’s 12 seats.

In an­other move to clean up past mis­takes, the hospi­tal reached a set­tle­ment with the OIG’S of­fice in May 2009. It agreed to pay a fine of $420,175—much less than the to­tal po­ten­tial fines of $19 mil­lion. The hospi­tal also spent $1.5 mil­lion in le­gal fees and hired a full­time chief com­pli­ance of­fi­cer.

Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal also re­vamped its anes­the­si­ol­ogy ser­vices. “We had an anes­the­si­ol­ogy depart­ment that was to­tally dys­func­tional,” Price re­calls, pri­mar­ily be­cause a num­ber of un­re­lated, in­de­pen­dent anes­the­si­ol­o­gists ran the ser­vice. The board re­placed those physi­cians in May 2008 with a sin­gle group prac­tice com­pris­ing a num­ber of the anes­the­si­ol­o­gists who had been work­ing at Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal’s com­peti­tor,

308-bed St. Mary’s Hospi­tal and Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

The board also has been plan­ning for the fu­ture. It inked a deal with Colorado Mesa Univer­sity to sell the hospi­tal’s eight-acre down­town site in stages for a to­tal of $7.1 mil­lion. The phased process al­lows Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal to grad­u­ally build new fa­cil­i­ties on a 30-acre site it owns on the out­skirts of town. The univer­sity, also down­town, plans to build dor­mi­to­ries on the hospi­tal’s cur­rent site.

Price, a skilled con­sen­sus builder, helped the board reach agree­ment on im­por­tant de­ci­sions, Thomas says.

“He is very in­clu­sive. I watch him at board meet­ings pulling in the mem­bers who are new mem­bers or try­ing to bal­ance the out­spo­ken mem­bers to make sure ev­ery­body has a chance to give in­put,” Thomas says. “He or­ches­trates, but he is not dom­i­neer­ing.”

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