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Managemen contract battle rewing at PMH

April 22, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — A battle is brewing over the management contract Pioneers Memorial Hospital here has with Portland, Ore.-based Brim Healthcare Inc.

The hospital board meets at 5:15 p.m. Monday and could vote on whether to maintain the contract. The meeting will be at the hospital at 207 W. Legion Road.

Hospital trustees Leo Haggarty and Aleta Shropshire have been vocal supporters of Brim, which has managed Pioneers for 14 years.

Trustee Katy Santillan has been just as vocal in her criticism, calling for the board to end its contract with the firm.

A year ago the hospital board voted to sign a five-year contract with Brim that calls for the firm to receive $590,000 a year to manage the hospital, plus an annual increase based on increases in the consumer price index. Such increases would not take effect until after the second year of the contract.


Also included in the contract is language that allows the Pioneers board to end its contract with Brim after the first year without cause.

Board President Marcus Tapia has asked that the board review the contract. The matter was discussed in closed session during the board's last meeting but no action was taken.

On Saturday hospital board members were interviewed about the contract issue.

Tapia said he has not decided how he will vote. He said he does have concerns about the hospital's management under Brim.

"I don't know what way I'm going to go, to be honest," Tapia said, adding he has spoken to hospital staffers who have made negative comments about Brim's leadership.

"They wonder whether they are going to have a job at any given point," he said.

Haggarty said he hopes the board will vote to maintain the contract.

"It is no time to be making changes," Haggarty said, adding the hospital will be facing an accreditation process soon and the board and hospital staffers have to focus on preparing for that.

Haggarty added Pioneers' new chief executive officer, Richard Mendoza, is doing a good job guiding the hospital as it works to improve its finances. Mendoza is a Brim employee selected by the Pioneers board as CEO.

Haggarty has said Brim can offer key services that can help Pioneers though its financial struggle. He has said it is up to the board to make use of those services.

For two years the hospital has faced a deficit that prompted it to add an assessment on the property tax paid by hospital district residents.

Hospital officials have said that assessment is necessary to pay off a $24 million bond used to finance the building of the new emergency room and the women's and surgery centers.

Hospital officials had expected to pay off that bond through hospital revenues but delays in the two construction projects and shrinking revenues meant the hospital could not meet the bond payments.

Santillan has said she blames Pioneers' fiscal problems on Brim.

"We need to terminate the contract," Santillan said.

"We have not gotten the positive outcome results we should have been getting in the last five years for the price that we pay," Santillan added.

She said through Brim's management the hospital has contracted out services that should have been handled in-house, such as physical therapy, dietary and housekeeping.

"Those services should have been handled in-house as way to cut costs and improve the quality of service," she said.

She said Brim has not been aggressive enough in trying to bring in new profits. She placed blame on Brim for the failed attempt at reaching an agreement with Calexico officials to have Pioneers help establish hospital services in that city.

Santillan said she is concerned that in the last two and half years there have been four chief executive officers brought in by Brim to lead the hospital.

Santillan said it is time for the hospital to hire its own top administrator who would answer only to the board.

Shropshire said she will oppose any call to terminate the Brim contract.

She agreed with Haggarty that Brim has done a good job and she said Mendoza deserves a chance to guide the hospital.

Shropshire said it is wrong to place the blame for Pioneers' troubles on Brim, adding there have been "many" factors affecting the hospital.

Pioneers' newest board member, Daniel Paramo, said he expects to be ready to decide on the Brim contract Monday.

"There are some questions I would like answered," Paramo said, adding of how he will vote, "It all depends how they answer."

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

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