Contractual ties are severed, but PMH looking at keeping CEO

May 28, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — A month after the Pioneers Memorial Hospital board voted to cut its ties with its management firm, Brim Healthcare Inc., there is new talk of having Richard Mendoza stay on as chief executive officer.

Mendoza, a Brim employee, was named CEO by the hospital board in the months before the majority of the board voted to sever its contract with Brim.

Because Mendoza works for Brim, the decision to end the contract means the hospital loses Mendoza and Pioneers' chief financial officer, Daniel Heckathorne, another Brim employee.

Marcus Tapia, president of the Pioneers board, said Sunday the board likes Mendoza's work and is interested in looking at whether it is possible for him to continue as CEO without Brim.


The board has a meeting scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Tuesday during which the CEO and CFO positions will be discussed, along with the hospital's future with Brim, which is based in Portland, Ore.

The meeting will be in the hospital's auditorium. Tapia said no decisions are expected and the issue will be discussed in closed session.

Tapia said it is not a simple issue to keep Mendoza because his contract as a Brim employee has a clause that prohibits him from continuing in the CEO position separate from Brim. However, Tapia said there is discussion as to whether it would be possible to waive that clause.

Of whether the board is interested in having Heckathorne continue as CFO, Tapia said that must be discussed. He said right now the board is looking at one position at a time.

Tapia said he would not support Brim or any other firm providing management services. However, there is talk that Brim could serve the hospital in some other form such as providing consultant services. Again, Tapia said he does not expect a decision on that matter Tuesday.

Tapia did say Brim officials have agreed to continue to provide management services as long as necessary for the board to decide how it will go about filling the CEO and CFO positions.

In April three of the five Pioneers board members voted to sever the five-year contract the hospital had with Brim. There were four years remaining on the contract.

Tapia, along with board members Katy Santillan and Daniel Paramo, voted to end the contract and have the hospital manage itself without a management firm. Board members Leo Haggarty and Aleta Shropshire voted to maintain the Brim contract.

The vote to break the contract brought to an end a 14-year management relationship between Pioneers and Brim.

The hospital had fallen on hard times financially in the past two years and only in recent months was starting to rebound.

A nursing shortage, delays in two major building projects, a federal act that cut reimbursement for Medi-Cal and Medicare, and a period of declining profits were all blamed for the financial problems.

Santillan, who had been a leading voice to break from Brim, said bad management also was to blame for the financial shortfalls.

She blamed Brim for the failure of the talks with Calexico Hospital officials regarding Pioneers helping reopen the Calexico facility.

She said Brim leadership led the hospital to out-source too many services, a move she said was unnecessary and not in the best interest of the hospital or the people it serves.

Santillan, Paramo and Haggarty were unavailable for comment.

Shropshire said she was aware there is a closed-session item on the agenda on the CEO and CFO positions but she added she is unaware of talk regarding Mendoza or having Brim provide consulting services.

Late last week Haggarty said he is interested in having Mendoza and Heckathorne continue at the hospital if possible and he would like to see Pioneers maintain a relationship of some sort with Brim.

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

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