Pampa Regional Medical Center Works to Restore the Confidence of Its Community

by HCE Exchange on September 18, 2014

Brad-Morse-thumbBrad S. Morse, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer

by Pete Fernbaugh

When Brad S. Morse, FACHE, arrived at Pampa Regional Medical Center in Pampa, Texas, two years ago, following Prime Healthcare Services’ acquisition of the organization, he knew his job as chief executive officer was essentially to rebuild the hospital from scratch.

After all, this was Prime Healthcare’s mission as one of the nation’s foremost hospital management companies: saving hospitals, saving jobs, saving lives. And Pampa Regional needed saving.

Confronting three primary issues

Prime Healthcare’s first step after acquiring Pampa Regional was to send in its experts to do an analysis of the hospital and to evaluate what was needed to turn it around.

“We really didn’t know what we did and didn’t have when we first started,” Morse said. “When they came in here, they saw immediately that the hospital needed more doctors and more qualified staff and needed new capital equipment.”

Pampa Regional also needed renewed credibility with the community. Located approximately 60 miles north of Amarillo, the hospital was Pampa’s sole community provider, yet people were seeking medical care in Amarillo.

Because of this outmigration, communication with the community became Morse’s primary focus.

“We had to communicate about the changes that were being made at the hospital and the differences between what was here before and what was here now,” he said. “This was paramount in bringing the people back and getting them to trust the hospital again.”

Finally, Pampa Regional needed a capital infusion that would enable it to completely overall its equipment.

“These are the three things you have to have to run a hospital: the people, the confidence of the community, and the right equipment to take care of it,” Morse said. “So we basically had to bring everything together.”

Establishing a brand-new hospital

Finding new staff wasn’t easy, Morse said. “We needed human capital in the worst way because we’re in a town of 20,000 people. We’re in a rural part of Texas, where, because of the growth in the oil industry, it’s hard to find local workers because they can make more money in the oil fields than they can doing construction and the skilled crafts. We wanted to do everything we could to use local people, but sometimes we had to go outside of Pampa in order to bring those in to make it happen.”

As Pampa Regional hired new staff, there were two primary realities it had to face.

First, no matter how many new physicians Pampa Regional brought in to replace departing or retiring physicians, the hospital would always be in need of more new physicians simply because of the size of the community.

“Any small town is going to go through that,” Morse said.

Second, because of the state of the hospital prior to Prime Healthcare’s acquisition, new employees and old employees were in need of education that would bring them up to speed with modern healthcare.

Part of this education demanded that new equipment be purchased for the hospital. With $15 million from Prime Healthcare, Morse was able to bring in new radiology equipment that was all digital, expanding his team’s capabilities beyond that of most small-town hospitals.

Morse also used the $15 million to purchase new surgical equipment and new laparoscopic equipment. Furthermore, a new cath lab for his cardiologists was installed, and the aesthetics of the hospital were overhauled, bringing in new beds and replacing the carpeting with flooring.

He said Prime Healthcare’s efforts have upgraded Pampa Regional to a Level IV trauma center.

“We basically made a brand-new hospital out of it,” Morse said.

Winning over the community

Of course, these efforts would be in vain if the community responded with disinterest. Thankfully, Morse said, this isn’t the case. Pampa Regional was recently named the 2014 Business of the Year.

“In this town, it’s hard to [win that award] because we’ve got a lot of oil companies that do very well,” he said.

Verbal feedback has also been positive.

“I hear from the community on an ongoing basis how proud they are and how glad they are that they can stay here for their healthcare now.”

However, this doesn’t mean the community is completely won over yet. Many residents are still trekking to Amarillo for their care. Becoming the first choice of the community will take time, Morse said.

“Those patients are coming back slowly but surely, but it’s going to be something that we work at every day. Most people from a small town are always going to think the next town bigger is better and that’s not necessarily the case. All of the physicians that we have here now are all board-certified or board-eligible and very competent at what they do.”

Additionally, Morse wants other healthcare organizations, such as outreach clinics, to feel confident that they can come to Pampa Regional and use the hospital’s resources.

“As a hospital CEO, my job is almost 100 percent relationships, so I have to maintain those relationships with the physicians here, with the community here, and with the outlying hospitals and outlying physicians.”

He said it’s important that CEOs abandon the traditional approach to administration, instead thinking through the eyes of the physicians.

“What is it they need in order to be successful? Because they’re making less money, we’re making less money, but unless we have their support, we don’t have the admissions. We have to find ways to make them successful.”

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