MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas (July 3, 2009) – When Ron Davis arrived at Titus Regional Medical Center (TRMC) in 2003, life for the organization and its employees was anything but good. Finances were a wreck, service was, at best, uneven, and the community was quickly losing confidence.
A national management company had been running the 164-bed hospital for years. The CEO who was assigned to the contract was a Monday through Friday Mount Pleasant resident and was not connected to the community in any meaningful way. The Chief Nursing Officer, a former Joint Commission surveyor, was seen as “distant” and the staff was not engaged. In fact, the hospital’s performance with quality care, patient safety, and satisfaction was less than stellar. Physician satisfaction was poor.
The Chief Financial Officer was splitting time between hospital business and a private audit practice, Mr. Davis later learned.
Representatives of the management company attended board meeting after board meeting as losses mounted. Nothing seemed to change.
The elected board, an extraordinary group of business and civic leaders, finally had seen enough. They terminated the management company, ending the tenure of the CEO who was on the payroll of the Plano-based organization. Directors began to take decisive steps to solve what they saw as clear-cut problems that were seriously threatening the hospital’s future.
After a rigorous nationwide search, the board appointed Ron Davis, as their new Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Davis, an engaging former pastor who earned a graduate degree in healthcare management after retiring from the pulpit, was previously the CEO of Southwest Iowa Regional Medical Center, an 80-bed hospital in Creston, Iowa.
With the reputation of a leader who could build Titus Regional into a respected regional hospital and armed with strongly held values that patient care, safety and customer satisfaction should be the organization’s number one priority, Mr. Davis began to rebuild a new culture of performance and accountability.
With his positive outlook and an infectious enthusiasm for TRMC and Mount Pleasant, a city of more than 15,000 residents 115 miles northeast of Dallas, Mr. Davis epitomizes the same values espoused in the new Harvard MBA Oath – honesty, a focus on service, a commitment to do what is right for the hospital, his employees and the community and a belief in leadership transparency.
With a new Chief Financial Officer and CNO, he launched a plan to stabilize the organization’s shaky finances. Physicians, who were skeptical of his ideas concerning growth – they feared he would dilute their existing practices – stepped up their criticism when the inherited financial crisis required layoffs. These were tough times but Mr. Davis was convinced that there was extraordinary untapped market potential. The TRMC board agreed.
The leadership turnaround plan moved this public hospital from a $6 million loss to financial stability, producing 8 to 10 percent margins over the past four years.
They established a foundation that raised more than $4 million for a new cancer center named in honor of Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim and his wife. Mr. Pilgrim is Chairman of Pilgrim’s Pride, a national poultry producer. Patient volumes for this newly constructed state-of-the-art center, operated as a joint venture with U.S. Oncology/Texas Oncology Physician Associates, have doubled market forecasts.
Meanwhile, Mr. Davis and his team are completing a $33 million expansion and renovation, including expansion of the emergency department, updating ancillary departments and redoing the patient tower.
Working with his medical staff, who are much happier with TRMC today, Mr. Davis has dramatically expanded services and grown patient volumes. Surprisingly, Mr. Davis said that he enjoys a secret advantage over his larger competitors in Texarkana and Tyler. Pediatrics. “Our group is phenomenal. They offer extended hours and they see patients seven days a week. They may not generate a lot of direct admissions, but they support our efforts because they help us capture the family.” The group is continuing to grow to keep up with the increasing volume. Mr. Davis credits his excellent primary care physicians with supporting a growth into specialty care including more sophisticated types of surgery and cardiology services.
In the interest of self disclosure, my firm, JohnMarch Partners, recruited the turnaround team for TRMC – Mr. Davis as well as the Chief Financial and Chief Operating Officers. We specialize in helping hosital boards recruit turnaround executives, a much more cost effective alternative to the national firms whose fees range from $2 – $12 million per engagement.
He believes that the key to his success is really no different than for any other CEO. “You have to be authentic, you must set a clear vision that people understand and support, and you must be consistent.”
He stresses service and accountability. The community knows that if something is amiss with service at the hospital, Mr. Davis wants to know. “I am accountable and the community knows that. They prove it when they call me at home,” but he admits that these calls come much less frequently than during the early days. The hospital, with the enthusiastic support from the Board, adopted the Quint Studer principles of service and delivery. “The board set the example when they insisted on attending the training programs.”
There are still challenges, Mr. Davis admits, but his outlook for Titus Regional as an independent community hospital is very positive. “Our community is growing. There is a can-do sense of pride here that is remarkable and that is reflected with our outstanding hospital board,” Mr. Davis concluded.
Mr. Davis’ days in the church pulpit may be over, but he is still preaching the gospel of leadership – quality care, exceptional service, customer satisfaction and the importance of being accountable.
John G. Self is Chairman and Senior Client Advisor of JohnMarch Partners. He is a Co-Founder of the Firm. A former investigative reporter and crime writer with more than 30-years of healthcare leadership experience in public relations, national marketing, business development and as Chief Executive Officer of hospitals and consulting firms, Mr. Self is highly regarded for his keen insight into operations, business culture and for his ability to consistently select the right leaders. You can contact Mr. Self at 214.220.1234 or JGSelf@johnmarch.com. Or you can follow him on Twitter at Self_JohnMarch.