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Our Opinion: PMH timing could be better

April 30, 2001

The Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District board has voted to end its 14-year relationship with Portland, Ore.-based management firm Brim Healthcare Inc., a move that could leave the hospital in a perilous position as it starts to prepare for its accreditation review.

For that reason we have to question how wise it was to suddenly end what was supposed to be a five-year contract with Brim. There were four years left on the contract, which did seem expensive at $590,000 a year.

We are not saying the three board members who voted to end the contract were wrong to think there were problems in the management of the hospital. However, we are not sure Brim can be blamed for all the problems. The hospital board had recently accepted Richard Mendoza, a Brim employee, as chief executive officer and the board did not give him a fair chance to show the leadership he could provide.

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From information we have received from board members they did not necessarily have a problem with Mendoza. The concern was the organization of which he is a part.

Board members had questions of trust in Brim and whether the firm was communicating as much as it should have with the board. Questions of trust always need to be addressed. We have to wonder if they could have been dealt with without breaking the contract, at least while the hospital has to focus on accreditation

Perhaps Brim, with Mendoza as CEO of Pioneers, could have righted what was wrong. We think the board could have found ways to assure Brim is communicating to the fullest extent with the board. If Brim did not respond to the effort, that would have been the time to break the contract.

The board has to assume some of the blame if there were problems in the contract. If there were questions of communication and the leadership of Brim, the board should have asserted itself earlier in order to strengthen its relationship with Brim rather than abruptly end it.

What we fear is the board has left the hospital without leadership and there has not been enough thought given to the next step. That said, the board has made a decision. Now it needs to show the leadership to make sure the hospital does not suffer in the interim.

The Pioneers board has a lot facing it. We have a sense the board is seriously divided because of the decision to break with Brim. Now the board members need to let go of such feelings and unite on this new course that has been set, because time is of the essence.

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