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Our Opinion: Worth keeping

May 31, 2001

Based on the latest information from the Pioneers Memorial Hospital board, at least some board members are interested in retaining the services of Richard Mendoza as chief executive officer and Daniel Heckathorne as the chief financial officer. We think both are good leaders, and the board should pursue a way to keep them.

That is no simple action. Mendoza and Heckathorne are employed by Brim Healthcare Inc., which pays their salaries. The majority of the hospital board recently voted to end the management contract Pioneers had with Brim.

That action means the board must sever its ties with Mendoza and Heckathorne, because both have clauses in their contracts that would prevent them from working at Pioneers separate from Brim.

We do not want to see ties severed with either man and it is interesting to discover some board members feel the same way. Board President Marcus Tapia and board members Katy Santillan and Daniel Paramo each voted to end the contract with Brim. Board members Leo Haggarty and Aleta Shropshire voted to maintain the contract, so it is no surprise that they are interested in retaining the services of Mendoza and Heckathorne.


Now Tapia has voiced interest in keeping at least Mendoza. We have not heard any definitive comments on the matter from Santillan and Paramo.

We think the board should pursue an agreement with Brim in which the management firm would free Mendoza and Heckathorne from their contracts. If talks are continuing to move forward on this issue, we wonder if that means Brim is willing to discuss the matter.

We also understand some members of the board are interested in maintaining some kind of relationship with Brim. Tapia has said there is talk of having Brim continue to serve as a consultant. He said he does not want Pioneers to have a management firm in place, but he said the hospital will need a consultant.

The hospital is facing a rough time ahead as it tries to improve its long-term financial outlook.

We think maintaining a relationship with Mendoza, Heckathorne and Brim is a good idea. However, if that is what the board wants to do, it does raise the question of why it needed to end the contract with Brim in the first place. Regardless, the board must insure it is making the best possible decisions for the hospital and we think the best decision is to give Mendoza more time to prove himself to be a leader who can guide Pioneers into the future.

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