Unsatisfactory

Survey shows declining satisfaction with hospital management company

The Memorial Hospital's management company announced Wednesday the results of a trustee satisfaction survey that showed marked declines from a similar survey conducted in 1999.

Paul Zuidema, assistant group vice president of Quorum Health Resources, visited the TMH board of trustees to explain to them, and the public, the results of the survey.

When it came time for Zuidema's presentation, he asked hospital Administrator Randy Phelps if he should wait to announce the results in the executive session of the board's meeting, which is not open to the public.

Phelps indicated the survey results should be announced publicly.

Zuidema proceeded, saying that there has been a "fairly significant slip" in trustee satisfaction with the management company.

Every major category showed declining satisfaction since 1999.

Although any number of negative conclusions seem likely, one senior board member, in her characteristic attention to detail, looks at a wide range of factors in explaining the results.

Sue Lyster is the board chair. She is in her fifth year serving as a trustee.

"I don't see this survey as being a negative survey at all," Lyster said, noting that satisfaction still remains high, with an overall score of 3.73 out of a possible five points.

The 1999 and 2003 survey questions were similar, but not identical. Comparing only the items common to both surveys, the 2003 survey is down to 3.57 from 1999's 4.25 score.

Lyster said she was not surprised by the results of this year's survey.

The group of trustees that filled out this year's survey is different from the board questioned in 1999. Only two of the current board were serving in 1999.

Also, the 1999 board was made up of veteran members, while four current board members have served less than 2 years.

Lyster said expectations and evaluations likely will change as trustees become more familiar with their roles and the role of Quorum in hospital affairs.

It's a somewhat tumultuous time for the hospital, which has underwent a disruptive change in computer systems, a new designation to "critical access" status, and an ongoing effort to put together plans for a replacement hospital.

When Zuidema discussed the survey, he noted two areas that seemed to be causing the downward slip, including issues associated with the replacement facility and the hospital's financial position.

Zuidema admitted there have been "trials" but said he hoped they would be viewed as positive, learning experiences.

Lyster said she saw positive answers in the "on-site leadership" category, which asks questions related to chief financial officer Roger White and administrator Randy Phelps. In the on-site category, all responders chose "excellent," "very good" or "good."

"When we look at on-site, we're seeing very good things," Lyster said.

However, even the on-site category slipped from 4.63 to 3.76 since 1999.

If Lyster has complaints, they center around the survey itself.

"I don't like how the questions are asked," she said, referring to the one to five rating system that asks respondent to mark "strongly agree, slightly agree, neither, slightly disagree, or strongly disagree."

She prefers a wider, scaled rating system.

Overall, Lyster said she approves of Quorum. She notes that the hospital was not in good shape when Quorum first was hired and the company turned things around.

Lyster admits she's heard dissatisfaction with Quorum's management, but says it is a "huge management company" that has an "excellent reputation" in the industry.

Zuidema told those attending Wednesday's meeting that TMH's declining satisfaction comes during a period when Quorum's ratings are improving among its other customers.

The board will vote in 2004 whether or not to renew Quorum's contract with TMH.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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