In a matter of one week, David Rasmussen went from being CEO at the Russell County Hospital, to unemployed, to attending his first meeting as CEO for the Adair County Hospital District.
Rasmussen learned last Tuesday at a special called meeting by the Russell County Hospital Board that a new management firm was being hired and he was immediately out of a job.
By the end of the week, he received calls from Columbia and on Saturday the Adair County Hospital District board hired him.
He started his new job on Monday.
Board members were encouraged by the sudden opportunity.
“It’s divine intervention,” said board member Richard Grant with a laugh. The hospital board held a special called meeting Saturday. All current board members, chairman Jim Evans, Grant, Craig Pyles and Bruce White, were present and voted to hire Rasmussen.
He started his first day on the job Monday meeting with department managers then went “floor by floor, department by department and just listening,” he said.
He met with County Judge Executive Ann Melton and by 3 p.m. was ready for an initial meeting with the local press.
By then, Rasmussen had already penciled out a 100-day plan, featuring around 10 priorities with details under each topic.
The plan considers cash flow, revenue cycle, physician clinics, a plan to visit with doctors, and possibly a public forum or a focus group from the community.
By the end of day one, Rasmussen was already talking about bringing back swing beds to Westlake Regional Hospital and redesigning the ICU to locate it near the nursing station and upgrading the emergency room. He was also looking into the possibility of bringing back Critical Access status.
Rasmussen said he has stayed informed through local media plus the board was straightforward with him so he knows the situation he is walking into. Westlake has borrowed $3.2 million from the local county government to stay afloat and just last week approved a layoff of 24 people. The hospital district is around $20 million in debt.
“We’ve been knocked against the ropes, but I don’t think it’s not fixable. It will be a challenge and it will be hard,” he said. “I think that brings some excitement to the job.”
During the press conference, Rasmussen said more than 30 full-time equivalent positions have been reduced from the hospital staff. Of that total, seven voluntarily resigned. He said he could not say if the layoffs are complete.
“The goal is to get salary and benefit costs less than 50 percent of your net revenue,” he said.
The goal of the board is to stabilize the hospital and hopefully develop an affiliation with a hospital or group, Rasmussen said.
“They are not trying to get me to turn it around so they can sell it on the street,” he said. “The discussion has been, ‘we need to get it strong, we want to be here for the community.’ And if we can affiliate with somebody to bring in extra services, that’s what we want to do. We want to take care of our people, locally.”
Rasmussen, who said he has 21 years of CEO experience in health care, will receive $9,500 a month for a six-month probationary period then his salary will increase to $11,000 a month, according to board members. He will be an employee of the hospital and not under contract.
Board members would not discuss the relationship with Spectrum Health Partners, who resigned from a contract that provided a CEO. The contract ends Sept. 14 and board members would not comment about whether the transition is a friendly one. Spectrum was receiving $25,000 a month for providing the CEO position.
Former CEO Rusty Tungate received $16,250 monthly, with the salary evenly split between each of the three hospitals that were being managed through Westlake.
BRIEF BOARD MEETING
During a brief board meeting Tuesday night, board members heard some preliminary figures from interim CFO Tammy Curry.
Curry said the hospital will show a loss of $3.6 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. For July, the hospital showed a net loss of $211,000.
A discussion was held about cash flow, with Curry stating that the transition to a new digital health records system has slowed the billing process. Rasmussen said he has already been on the phone with the company providing the system to solve the problem.
By Sharon Burton