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Our Opinion: A new Pioneer

January 25, 2001

We are pleased to see the Pioneers Memorial Hospital board has hired a permanent chief executive officer who appears qualified for the job.

Richard Mendoza, 52, of El Paso has worked 30 years in hospital administration and based on our interview with him he seems as if he could have a positive effect on Pioneers.

Still, as one board member put it, we will not know what Mendoza can do for the hospital until he gets to work. It will take him time to acquaint himself with hospital operations, but he brings the kind of experience that likely will make it easy for him to delve into Pioneers' issues quickly.

Mendoza takes the position at an interesting time. While the board has a contract with Brim Healthcare Inc. to manage Pioneers for five years, the first year of that contract ends in June. After that time, the board can break the contact without cause. Getting rid of Brim would likely mean getting rid of Mendoza, a Brim employee.


We think Mendoza and Brim deserve a shot at proving themselves. Brim has a lot to offer Pioneers but for whatever reason those services have not been utilized to the fullest.

That is changing. The fact Pioneers is facing tough financial times has forced everyone involved with the hospital, including Brim, to do more to keep it financially strong. Mendoza worked with Brim for nine years, so he knows what Brim has to offer. He will be a key link between the board and Brim.

What Mendoza will need to do is build trust by keeping an open dialogue with the hospital board and staff. He will have to walk around the hospital as a regular part of his job. He will have to work with and become involved in the community. He said he plans to do all that.

Pioneers needs permanent leadership. It has seen leaders come and go over the past few years. One thing in Mendoza's favor is interim CEO Tom Plantz did a good job of guiding the hospital over the last three months.

Plantz did what a CEO is supposed to do — he led. We think he leaves Pioneers better off then he found it, and Mendoza could be a CEO to take Pioneers even higher.

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