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Pioneers trustees unanimously hire Mendoza as CEO

January 23, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — By a unanimous vote Monday, the Pioneers Memorial Hospital board selected a chief executive officer to lead the hospital here as it continues efforts to mend a troubled financial period.

Richard Mendoza, 52, of El Paso, Texas, was hired to fill the hospital's top management position. He will start work Feb. 5.

Mendoza will replace Tom Plantz, who was hired as the interim CEO. Plantz will continue with the hospital until Feb. 7

"I'm excited. I think there is tremendous opportunity there," said Mendoza in a telephone interview this morning. Mendoza was not present for the board's vote.


Hospital board members and staffers interviewed Mendoza earlier this month when he was presented as the candidate for the position by Brim Healthcare Inc., the Portland, Ore. firm contracted to manage the hospital.

Mendoza, in his new position, is a Brim employee and his salary will be paid by the company. Officials with Brim declined to release how much Mendoza will earn as CEO of Pioneers.

Mendoza will come to Pioneers after serving as vice president of operations and development for Access Health Sources in El Paso.

Before that he worked nine years for Brim as president and chief executive officer of the Northeastern Regional Medical Hospital in Las Vegas.

Mendoza has worked in hospital administration for some 25 years.

He has a bachelor's degree in marketing from St. Mary's University in San Antonio and a master's degree in hospital administration from Trinity University, also in San Antonio.

Mark Turner, a vice president for Brim, told the hospital board Monday Brim presented Mendoza as the only candidate for the position because of his experience with the company.

"He is an energetic, excitable guy who understands the hospital business," Turner said, adding in the nine years Mendoza has worked with Brim he proved to be an able hospital administrator.

Hospital board members said based on their interviews with Mendoza and his past experience, they think he can do a good job of leading Pioneers.

Board member Katy Santillan reminded Brim and her fellow board members that Mendoza will have to prove himself, adding, "You don't know what you have until you have it."

Board President Marcus Tapia, who was appointed to that position Monday by his fellow board members, said Mendoza appears to be a qualified candidate. He added the hospital cannot wait another three of four months to search for other candidates.

Mendoza takes the CEO position at a time when Pioneers is continuing to work through a difficult financial time. Over the past two years finances have been strained as two major construction projects strapped hospital funds and the Federal Balanced Budget Act cut hospital reimbursements.

Hospital officials said while Pioneers' finances are starting to show signs of improvement — the hospital had surpluses in both November and December — the facility still has a way to go before its financial troubles are solved.

Mendoza also starts his new position five months before the first year of the hospital's five-year contract with Brim ends.

That is significant because after the first year the board can opt to end its contract with Brim without cause, unlike the first 12 months of the contract. The first year ends in June.

Santillan, an outspoken critic of Brim, who has said the hospital might be better off without a management firm, does want the board to review the contract.

During Monday's meeting, Tapia spoke of the need to review the contract.

"We have to establish the trust and professionalism to continue this relationship," he told Brim officials at Monday's meeting.

He said the board will do its due diligence in monitoring Brim's management and the needs of the hospital.

Mendoza said he understands the contract with Brim is coming up for review and he said it is his job and the job of Brim to make sure the hospital is a success.

He said if given a chance he thinks he can help Pioneers.

"I certainly know how to utilize Brim's resources effectively," Mendoza said. "What that does for the board is it maximizes their investment in the Brim contract."

Mendoza will move to Brawley with his wife, Maria. They have three children, two of who will enter the Brawley school system; one is in college.

"One of my strengths is my ability to get involved in the community," he said. "I plan to be active in all aspects of the community."

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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