Former Trigg leader to take over in Clovis

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

A New Mexico hospital administrator with a history of tending to hospitals in need volunteered to lead Plains Regional Medical Center.

Officials from the hospital — scrutinized earlier this year by several regulatory agencies and bogged down by board member resignations — announced Hoyt Skabelund landed the position Wednesday, ending a search for a PRMC administrator which never truly began.

“It may sound trite, but (my family and I) really feel like we were led here,” the new PRMC administrator said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

“After talking to him, we felt like we didn’t need to do that (search),” PRMC Board of Directors chairwoman Gayla Brumfield said. “We think he is absolutely the right person at the right time.”

PRMC serves more than 110,000 people living within a 100-mile radius of the city of Clovis, according to its Web site. It will be the largest hospital Skabelund has led.

Skabelund, 37, has been with PRMC’s parent company, Presybterian Healthcare Services, for a decade. He will begin his new role in late June. He serves as the administrator of Socorro General Hospital. Formerly, he led the Dr. Dan C. Trigg Hospital in Tucumcari, according to a PRMC press release. Both hospitals are owned by Presbyterian’s not-for-profit network, which consists of eight community hospitals in New Mexico, the release said.

Former PRMC administrator Brian Bentley resigned from the position in February for unspecified reasons. His resignation followed a series of PRMC inspections by several regulatory agencies. Two veteran board members also resigned about the same time.

Two agencies found the hospital out of compliance with unspecified medical standards.

Those areas center chiefly on breaches of hospital policy and are not life-threatening, Brumfield said.

Skabelund said he did not know in which areas the hospital had been deemed deficient, but also assured the problems are not dangerous.

He said he is confident the action plan in place, and the people who are behind it, are capable of straightening PRMC’s status with the regulatory agencies.

He likened the hospital inspections to a look in the mirror. And likened the role of an administrator to a general on the battlefield.

“An administrator’s job is to ensure the team that surrounds him are experts and help them with research, inspiration and motivation,” said Skabelund, the son of a forest ranger who said he paid his way through college by doing custodial work.

Though Skabelund said he trusts the team at PRMC, he will campaign to improve drooping patient satisfaction scores at the hospital. The scores lag behind the rest of the nation in the 10th percentile, he said.

“That means patients feel more satisfied in 90 percent of hospitals in the country. They are not unsafe at PRMC. The issue is: Did they feel cared for? We have a long way to go,” he said.

He hopes to bring the hospital’s patient satisfaction scores into the 27th percentile by the end of the year.

Others goals he set in Tucumcari and Socorro, he said he met.

In the Socorro hospital, a year after Skabelund came aboard, employee turnover rates hung at 27 percent. Within another year, they had dropped to about 10 percent, according to an article in the Mountain Mail Newspaper.

Turnover at the Tucumcari hospital was similarly sliced, Skabelund said.

Spurred by complaints, a national hospital accreditation agency conducted an unannounced inspection of PRMC in January. That inspection was followed by another, conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health at the request of the federal agency Centers for Medicaid and Medicare.

The hospital has set forth an action plan to bring itself into compliance with the agencies. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare have yet to complete an in-depth inspection of the hospital, called for after the New Mexico Department of Health substantiated complaints logged against PRMC.

Brumfield said consultants from the Compass Group, a health care management company that also sent PRMC interim administrator Carl Fitch, have been hired to assist in addressing the areas of deficiencies highlighted by the agencies.