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PMH board mulls future relationship with Brim

June 23, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — While the Pioneers Memorial Hospital board has voted to sever its contract with management firm Brim Healthcare Inc., talks are taking place on whether there could be a future relationship between the entities.

The Pioneers board has a meeting set for 5:15 p.m. Monday during which it will discuss the hospital's two top administrative positions — chief executive officer and chief financial officer. Both positions are filled by Brim employees.

When the board voted to end its contract with Brim, it meant the hospital would have to replace Richard Mendoza., hired as CEO earlier this year, and Daniel Heckathorne, CFO for 14 years.

Some board members said recently they are interested in Mendoza continuing as CEO.

However, Mendoza likely could not serve as CEO separate from Brim because of a clause in his contract.

Hospital trustees have said they were trying to determine if it would be possible to reach an agreement with Brim that would allow Mendoza to be retained.

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Mendoza said Friday information he has heard is it would not be possible to be CEO separate from Brim.

He said talks are continuing — and the issue will be discussed in closed session Monday — on a future relationship between himself, Brim and the hospital.

Mendoza said he does not think any decisions will be made Monday. Any vote the board might take on the issue would have to be in public session.

Mendoza did say he would like to continue as Pioneers CEO, but he added that could not happen based on the vote by the board to end the Brim contract.

Trustees who voted to end the contract were board President Marcus Tapia, Katy Santillan and Daniel Paramo. Those who voted to keep the contract were Leo Haggarty and Aleta Shropshire.

The decision to end the contract came one year after the board voted unanimously to set a five-year contract with Brim. That contract was subject to an annual review.

Santillan, a leading voice on the board to end the contract, said the hospital and community would be better served if the board hired its own CEO who reported only to the board.

Santillan blamed Brim for the two years in which Pioneers has faced financial difficulties, stating part of the problem is the firm contracted out too many services.

She blamed Brim for not being aggressive enough in trying to reach an agreement with Calexico Hospital officials that would have allowed Pioneers to help reopen the closed hospital.

Santillan also was critical of the instability she said the hospital has faced as a result of changing CEOs. In 1998 Bill Daniel stepped down after being Pioneers CEO for seven years.

Since then the hospital has had one other permanent CEO, Claire Kuczkowski, who served for two years, and had a number of interim administrators before Mendoza was selected to lead Pioneers earlier this year.

Those in support of keeping the contract with Brim have said there are a number of services Brim can make available to help Pioneers through tough financial periods.

Haggarty has said along with the position of CEO and CFO, Brim can provide consultants to aid the hospital in serving the community.

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

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