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Southwest Memorial Hospital staff seeks more input on hospital operations, CEO search

About 40 people attended Southwest Health System board meeting Sept. 22 at Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Issued raised during Southwest Health System board meeting

Southwest Memorial Hospital staff aired concerns about hospital management and staff morale during a packed Southwest Health System board meeting Wednesday.

SHS is managed by Community Hospital Consulting, the management arm of Community Hospital Corporation of Plano, Texas. CHC employs the hospital’s CEO and chief financial officer.

CHC is seeking to replace former CEO Tony Sudduth who resigned in April. Jeanette Filpi, of CHC, is serving as the interim CEO.

Several staff members spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, which was attended by about 40 people.

Dr. Kameo Smith said there have been concerns raised by medical providers and hospital staff, including the sudden departure of former Chief Operating Officer Kerri White-Singleton.

“There are still a lot of questions unanswered,” Smith said.

More feedback and investigation is needed from hospital managers on staff concerns, she said.

Smith said among staff there is a level of “distrust” toward hospital management.

Dr. Kevin Matteson agreed and felt the hospital could do better moving forward without CHC.

He echoed the call for more staff input, saying that in the past, the hospital has struggled when managers lacked staff perspective.

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There can be a fear of retribution for expressing criticism in public forums where administration is present, Matteson said.

It was suggested a format be developed so that staff could give more input to the SHS board without the presence of administrators.

“We have done that before at provider meetings where administration leaves, then it gives people the opportunity to speak their minds,” he said. “Perspective from other areas provides a different data point for the board to make decisions.”

Another physician said there is a concern that CHC is looking to take over ownership of Southwest Memorial, which is owned by taxpayers.

“There is a lot of pride in having a community-based hospital,” she said. “It is important to keep it in the community,” and not be owned by an outside corporation like Mercy Medical Center in Durango.

In an interview with The Journal after the meeting, Tod Beasley, CHC senior vice president of hospital financial operations, said that CHC has no plan to take over ownership of Southwest Memorial Hospital.

He said CHC’s focus is specializing in helping rural hospitals stay viable, and that under CHC leadership, Southwest Memorial recovered its financial crisis in 2018.

The hiring process for the new CEO was discussed. The CEO would replace Sudduth, who resigned in April.

Staff questioned whether the CEO had to be from CHC, and if one could be chosen from outside the company through a broader community and staff process.

Beasley said the person would be a CHC employee, by contract between SHS and CHC.

CHC will vet the applicants, and the final five candidates will be reviewed by a panel that includes SHS board members and Bill Thompson and Dean Matthews of the Montezuma County Hospital District Board.

Choosing a CEO that has compassion for a rural community where patients face more financial challenges is important, said an emergency room staff member.

Filpi said CHC is very cognizant of the importance of hiring medical staff and a CEO who understands rural hospitals and wants to live in a rural community.

White-Singleton resigned from her position as COO. The reasons for her and Sudduth’s resignations was not provided.

In a statement to The Journal Monday, White-Singleton said SHS is an “outstanding health system and has proven its dedication to improvement strategies over the last few years. If there was an opportunity in an executive leadership role in the future, I would gladly serve again.”