TMH puts focus on customer service

Board looks ahead with new facilities

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The next three to six months of business at The Memorial Hospital is looking "incredibly busy," chief executive officer George Rohrich said at TMH's annual meeting Thursday morning.

With 80 percent of its new hospital completed, TMH will focus on making improvements from last year while attempting a smooth transition into the new building in November, officials said.

At the annual meeting at the Holiday Inn of Craig, hospital officials looked to the past for direction in the busy times ahead.

Rohrich said 2008 was an excellent year for recruitment of top-tier physicians for the hospital.

"The physicians that started or were recruited last year were a huge accomplishment for the community," he said.

New OB/GYN Kathleen "K.C." Keating will join Dr. Scott Ellis in the beginning of July.

Also recruited was Dr. Andy Hughes and two physician's assistants for the TMH Medical Clinic.

TMH opened its Medical Clinic in 2008 to support local physicians during a shortage of primary care doctors.

The clinic was running at full capacity almost immediately.

TMH also began building the replacement hospital in 2008: a larger, more efficient building to replace the now 60-year-old hospital on Russell Street.

"Our success in recruitment is definitely linked to showing people the new hospital," Rohrich said. "Young doctors just out of school wouldn't want to come to an old, outdated hospital. We show them Craig, and they can see that something is happening here. We're growing."

One of the major accomplishments of last year was the first increase of market share in 10 years.

"Right now, we have about a 60 percent share," Rohrich said. "That means 40 percent of people are going elsewhere for their health care. We want to bring that share closer to 100 percent."

Service excellence officer Samantha Johnston discussed quality control and ways to increase patient satisfaction, focusing on the customer service aspect.

"We implemented the 'Raise the Bar' campaign, which was successful and mostly received well among employees," Johnston said. "We wanted to create an organization of accountability. We wanted our staff to remember that what we do has an impact on others."

Other aspects of what Rohrich called a "cultural transformation" include zero tolerance on certain behavioral standards and continual reviews of clinical practices.

Also included in the quality control effort is a dedication to resources for the transition into the new hospital, Johnston said.

Vision for the future

The transition into the new building requires the assistance of a special committee dedicated to making sure the move goes smoothly.

"We want it to look like we just flipped off the switch at the old building and flipped it on at the new building," Rohrich said. "We want it to look that easy."

But in reality, it won't be.

All staff will need to be familiarized with the new building, trained on new equipment, and ready for their first shift.

Funding for the new building also might present obstacles in the coming year.

"Our biggest challenge will be servicing the debt of the new building," chief financial officer Woody Hathaway said. "There might be some operational unknowns, minor problems and costs that come up as we transition into the new building."

Because the government, through Medicare and Medicaid, pays for about 43 percent of the hospital's revenue, the government will reimburse part of the building expense by paying a higher rate for services at the new hospital.

Rohrich said he was confident a push will be made to ensure this funding will come through.

"Whatever comes out of Washington is not necessarily predictable," he said. "It's a crapshoot, but we're doing the best we can to preserve rural hospitals like ours in Craig."

Rohrich presented a three-year strategic plan which addressed issues of customer service, recruiting and retaining staff, and increased operational efficiency.

"I think we already are more customer service-oriented than a couple of years ago," Rohrich said.

City Council member Ray Beck said he attended the meeting to show his support for the community and interest in the endeavors of the hospital.

"I'm really glad they've keyed in on the customer service aspect, because that's been a problem for several years," Beck said. "It's like any other business, you have to have good customer service."

Looking to the future, Rohrich emphasized the cultural changes of focusing more on customer service.

"The physicians, quality, finance; all of those things contribute to the growth of the hospital," he said. "And the hospital is a huge economic engine for the community."

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