In March 2006, when George Rohrich assumed the chief executive officer position at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, the organization was in the midst of a rough patch.
“The weekend before I started … we had a physician, I believe it was the chief of staff at the time, camping out on the hospital lawn in the snow,” Rohrich recalled.
On the new CEO’s third day, during the TMH monthly board meeting, that same physician aired a litany of accusations against the hospital, its board members and staff.
“They were things that were beyond imagination,” Rohrich said of the accusations. “I was speechless and thinking, ‘Oh no, what have I just gotten myself into?’”
Things have changed since Rohrich’s early days.
What emerged, in the short term, were investigations and an eventual exoneration of hospital personnel and practices. The long term has produced a new hospital, several new physicians and services, and a better bottom line.
Last month, Rohrich, 54, received an award for growth in net revenue during the QHR Annual Leadership Conference in Franklin, Tenn.
QHR, or Quorum Health Resources, is a hospital management and consulting firm.
The company manages TMH and nearly 1,000 other hospitals, according to its website. In addition to managing TMH, QHR provides the hospital with two employees who fill the roles of chief financial officer and CEO — Bryan Chalmers and Rohrich, respectively.
In a news release, QHR President and CEO James L. Horrar said the award is an acknowledgement for Rohrich helping TMH achieve a net revenue increase of 23 percent — $19.9 to $25.3 million — from 2009 to 2010.
The award bears his name, but the true recipients are hospital employees, Rohrich said.
“I set the tone and the focus for the place, but without all the great people here, nothing gets done,” he said. “So, when something like this happens, I am absolutely aware that it’s everyone’s good work.
“So, I am embarrassed that my name is on that award, that it doesn’t just say TMH.”
Missy Bonaker, who has served on the hospital board since 2004, said Rohrich deserves the engraving and recognition.
“He definitely does,” she said. “He’s our leader, and we wouldn’t be there without him.
“It’s the community that provided the (revenue) increase, but the community wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the improvements of the hospital. … And, that has come from George’s leadership.”
Every year since 2006, net revenue at TMH has increased significantly — $15.3 million in 2006, $16.3 million in 2007, $18.3 million in 2008, $19.9 million in 2009 and $25.3 million in 2010.
Since 2006, TMH has expanded its facilities by 24,000 square feet.
Since 2006, TMH has added 28 employees.
All of it has occurred with Rohrich at the helm.
Rohrich moved with his wife, Valerie, to Craig from Worland, Wyo., where he spent five years as CEO of Washakie Medical Center.
Before that, he spent four years as the administrator of Pembina County Memorial Hospital in Cavalier, N.D.
Earlier, Rohrich worked for 15 years in medical administration for the U.S. Air Force in hospitals across the U.S., plus two years at a hospital in Turkey.
Rohrich relocated to Craig for two reasons.
First, the grass was greener on the other side.
“People might chuckle at this, but I believe this is a bit greener,” he said of the Yampa Valley. “It is more desert-like where we lived in Wyoming.”
Second, TMH presented challenges and opportunities that appealed to the CEO. He would need to recruit physicians to the area, win back market share and build a new hospital.
Helming a large capital project was new to Rohrich.
“A new hospital was going to be a new experience for me,” he said. “I’d done renovations and added new wings and that sort of thing, but I’d never built a hospital from the ground up.
“So that was an exciting challenge.”
Early in his tenure, Rohrich realized TMH couldn’t build a new facility without community support.
“We couldn’t afford it,” he said. “At some point, we had an evaluation done — a feasibility study — that showed the only way to do this was to get taxpayer support through a new mill levy.”
Support came quickly, but it wasn’t unanimous. In November 2007, voters were asked to decide on a 3-mill, $42.6 million new construction measure.
The measure passed by a 424-vote margin.
A few years later, with the hospital built and fully operational, Rohrich hopes the completed project has vindicated supporters and swayed opponents.
“There were a lot of people who weren’t convinced we should build a new hospital here,” he said. “But, I think a lot of the things we promised have come true.
“It’s easier to recruit physicians … it does make a difference, this hospital over the former one. And, it’s a better customer experience.”
The 23-percent jump in revenue from 2009 to 2010 can also be attributed to the move, he said.
“At the end of 2009 we were getting ready to move in here,” Rohrich said. “We decided … that we really need to do a thorough review of our business practices. How do we bill? How do we collect? How do we provide charity care? The nuts and bolts of the money. Are we doing it as efficiently and effectively as it can be done?”
TMH commissioned studies and reports of its primary business practices.
“We looked at patient financial services, charges, collections, medical records, everything that has to do with the non-clinical side of our business,” he said. “We identified opportunities and worked through those … with great focus in 2010 and we started to see the benefit of that at the end of 2010.”
Bonaker, who served on the hospital board for nearly two years before Rohrich arrived, said she has noticed his impact.
“I think he’s more progressive and innovative,” she said. “He does his research and comes up with ideas that will help the community and help the hospital.
“He’s on top of it. George is always looking for new things — he’s on the edge of what we can do better and new programs.”
Don Myers has been a TMH board member since 1991 and has seen three CEOs during that time. Myers said Rohrich manages the hospital by three principles.
“The first thing is he’s going to do the right thing, always,” Myers said of Rohrich.
“The second thing is he wants the right people at the hospital.
And, if we can’t find the right people, we do without (them) and keep looking until we find the right people.
“The third thing is he takes initiative.”
Rohrich said TMH is on track for another boost in net revenue for fiscal year 2011, but figures won’t be official until an audit is performed nine months from now.
“2011 is going to be yet another big year,” he said. “It’s going to be a good, strong year.”
As for his own future, Rohrich said he’s not sure what’s next.
“There are projects I would like to complete here at The Memorial Hospital,” he said. “You know, that’s as far as I can see into the future.”
In the meantime, Rohrich said the credit for the hospital’s successes lie outside his executive office.
“I have been very, very lucky to be surrounded by people that are very, very good at what they do, whether they’re executives or nurses or staff or physicians,” he said. “If I look around and think about counting my blessings, those are my blessings.”
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