The new Chief Executive Officer of Jamestown Regional Medical Center wants to rebuild the community’s trust in the hospital.
CEO Michael Alexander said addressing the hospital’s recent operational issues is only the beginning.
“The bigger challenge is having the people of the county taking the leap of faith in trusting us,” Alexander said. “We have to do a very good job taking very good care of every patient that comes through our door. They will be skeptical for a while. We have to step up and prove to them that we have earned that chance to be trusted.”
JRMC owner Rennova Health System announced the hiring of Alexander last Monday. That same day, Rennova also announced 20 people would be laid off from the Jamestown hospital, three days before the facility was placed under a temporary closure.
Alexander said the hospital’s financial issues likely began with vendors shortly after Rennova purchased JRMC in 2018.
“The billing process had some stumbles in getting up and functional, so the payments were not coming through the pipeline in a timely manner,” Alexander said. “When that happens, you can’t always pay all of your bills and that’s exactly what happened with the vendors we had, the people that supply things to the hospital. We started getting behind because the cash was not coming in.”
The hospital was nearly closed last month until Rennova made a payment to the IRS to keep JRMC open on a ‘day-to-day’ basis. JRMC began diverting patients from its emergency room to other area hospitals about a week later.
Alexander said the decision by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to terminate the hospital from its program, plus the hospital’s billing issues, ultimately led to the temporary closure last Thursday evening.
“It stretched things out and took longer for cash to start coming in,” Alexander said. “In the meantime, bills still need to be paid, staff needs to get paid, there are ongoing operating costs for operating the business of a hospital while you’re waiting to get paid for what you’re doing. When that goes out longer, it starts burning reserves you had prepared for that time.”
Alexander said he understands the worries some area residents and hospital employees may have as they work to address the problems.
“There are things that we can fix and we can take care of that need our attention,” Alexander said. “But what we have to do is build the trust of the community. What I’ve asked the employees to do is to understand that I came here Monday. I can’t speak to what happened before that, and I hope that they will take me for me and give me the chance to earn their trust – or not – on my own.”
Alexander said he has confidence the hospital will be fully operational again in the future once the financial troubles are resolved.
“We can get the cash flow process working, and we can get caught up from some of the money that should be in the pipeline that we’re just waiting to come through,” Alexander said. “That’ll allow us to buy supplies and make sure that all of our other needs are taken care of. That’s almost the easy part, even though it includes reinstating our CMS participation. That’s a challenge, but we can do it.”
Alexander has served in the healthcare industry for approximately 30 years, with nearly two decades of experience as a CEO and other administrative roles in rural hospitals. Dr. Angel Giraldez served as the interim CEO for four months following the departure of Lynette Evans in February.