That question: who does he work for, the hospital or Brim Healthcare Inc., the Portland, Ore. firm that manages Pioneers?
Technically, Mendoza is a Brim employee.
However, he said, "I work for the hospital because the only way the management company is successful is if the hospital is successful."
Mendoza added, "My job is to make sure the hospital is viable and provides good service to the community and that we are a good community partner."
Mendoza, hired by a unanimous vote of the Pioneers board, came to the Imperial Valley after working 25 years in hospital administration.
He has a bachelor's degree in business from St. Mary's University in San Antonio and a master's degree in hospital administration from Trinity University in San Antonio.
Mendoza has served previously as chief administrator of rural hospitals. With Brim he worked for nine years as chief administrator for Northeastern Regional Hospital in Las Vegas, N.M.
"I have a lot of experience in proven rural health systems and that is what this is; it's a district hospital, but it is a rural health system."
He said his most immediate focus will be assuring Pioneers becomes stronger financially.
He said he will work at improving revenues by taking a close look at services, adding the hospital and its staff need to determine what new services Pioneers could offer the community.
Mendoza said Pioneers has cyclical business — there are a lot of people using the hospital in the winter and fewer patients in the summer. He said that needs to change and the way to do that is to add services that balance the hospital's use. That may mean more outpatient services, adding physician services and new programs.
Mendoza said his two other most immediate goals are preparing Pioneers for accreditation in a year and building community outreach.
"As a small rural hospital we have to be cognizant that we are a member of the community," he said. "Philosophically, not only do we provide health services but we are an important cog in the community."
He said that means working with schools, churches and clubs to build partnerships. One program the hospital is starting would have community organizations adopt the hospital and help care for its grounds.
Mendoza said he thinks Pioneers can have a bright future because a foundation from which the hospital can grow is in place.
He lauded the hospital's staff of physicians and nurses and all others who maintain daily operations and said the hospital board is going to provide Pioneers with the chance to grow.
Mendoza is residing in Brawley. His wife, Maria, and two of their children will join him in May. He has a son attending college in San Antonio.
He said he would like to have a long tenure as Pioneers' administrator and said his experience so far in the Imperial Valley has been positive.
"I'm impressed with what the Valley has to offer and what Brawley has to offer," he said.
Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.