Editorial: Rapid-fire changes at Porter done; let the healing begin

In a rare move at Porter Medical Center, the medical staff last Tuesday cast a vote of no-confidence in Porter’s CEO, Lynn Boggs, and delivered that decision on Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, Boggs had graciously submitted her resignation and the board promptly named Fred Kniffin, MD, to step in as interim CEO.
Some within the nurses union and medical staff may be appeased, but all know there is no cause for glee. Difficult measures face this county’s hospital. It will take a united and committed medical community to see Porter through the changes that must be made to assure a strong and profitable medical center.
Few within the Porter community disagreed that big changes need to be made. Those changes include: realignment in staff, nurses included; and changes in the way doctors are compensated, which is admittedly out-of-date and had been in the works before former CEO Jim Daily retired almost a year ago. Furthermore, the hospital’s difficult implementation of its IT system several years ago didn’t go well (whose does?), resulting in cost overruns and a $7 million-plus tab that has cramped its capital building fund and cut into annual revenues because of a higher-than-expected debt load. It’s important that Porter creates a healthy bottom line so it can make the expensive updates in facilities and equipment that is essential to the industry. On the state and federal level, the underfunding of Medicare and Medicaid continues to hinder small hospitals, and the unexpected ups and downs of the medical industry these days makes it difficult to predict annual revenues with any great certainty.
In short, these are tough times to be in the medical care industry, and even tougher for small, rural hospitals.
That said, the community can be assured that Porter Hospital and Porter Medical Center will be able to right its ship and come through these hard times if—and that’s an important caveat—all players make a commitment to do what’s best for this highly valued community hospital. If the guiding light is to put self-interest aside and work to create a first-rate hospital that cares about its patients and employees, then we’ll see a revived hospital and a medical community emerge as strong as ever.
But it won’t be a simple operation.
Big changes still need to be made at Porter. At issue with CEO Lynn Boggs was not necessarily what she and the board were proposing—often at the advice of consultants who know how to position hospitals to have a strong bottom line—but rather the manner in which she was carrying out those directives. At fault was a clash of styles and culture that she was, perhaps, slow to see, but the message rang true. A different style with Porter’s new leadership team will hopefully make the changes easier to digest and accept.
It’s no secret, for example, that changes need to be made with Porter’s dozen or more physician practices. Porter’s practices lose twice the industry average. All agree that must be improved. All the while, Porter has to be savvy about how it attracts and keeps its star medical staff and support. They are, after all, the economic engines that drive revenue to the hospital.
Recent actions make us hopeful. While grumblings of unrest started months ago, it wasn’t until the past few weeks that those grumblings started to reach a slow burn, and then, rather rapidly, hit a boiling point. While such responses are always too late, that the board of directors stepped in promptly, the medical staff acted swiftly, and a resignation was accepted—all within the past 10 days—is reacting with lightning speed for almost any governing body. Moreover, it was done with as much grace and clarity as one could have expected. Such professionalism bodes well for Porter’s future.
So, with the good graces of a community pulling together, let the healing begin.
Angelo S. Lynn

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