CEO has big plans for Curry General Hospital

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer June 07, 2013 07:02 pm

Andrew Bair
Curry Health Network CEO Andrew Bair is trying to make his dreams into reality.

They include attracting physicians to its hospital in Gold Beach and clinics in Port Orford and Brookings, obtaining prestigious certifications, getting a sleep study center, IV therapy unit and chemotherapy unit — and the much-clamored-for dialysis center.

He plans to speak to a group of local dialysis patients this weekend about their frustrations in obtaining treatment, which include long drives to other counties to do so. A small but vocal group is aggravated by alleged promises by past directors at the health network to bring such services to the area, and it hopes Bair will be their savior.

In the district’s new strategic plan, Bair would ideally like to have a dialysis center open somewhere in the county by June 2014.

He said the new plan was needed to guide future operations of the health network.

“It gives us direction,” he said. “We’re excited about having true direction. With each goal is a subset of action items and the people on the executive team are being held accountable for getting it done.”

Dialysis patients in Brookings have spoken with past network directors, who have said there isn’t enough need to attract such a facility to the area. They beg to differ — and Bair’s willing to listen.

Complicating things is that Brookings is not in the Curry Health Network’s taxing district.

“That’s part of the political tightrope we have to walk here,” he said. “Brookings definitely has needs, and we’re positioned to do it. There is frustration in the tax district that so many resources are allocated to Brookings, but we’re dependent on Brookings to a large degree because so much of our revenue comes from Brookings.”

Dialysis center officials in Medford have said they need at least 25 patients to make a center financially feasible for them.

“The chatter is that we have a population of dialysis patients in Brookings, and not too far across the California border is a mirror group of people,” Bair said. “It may be a community big enough to support this service.”

As an registered nurse, he understands their plight.

“They live from appointment to appointment,” Bair said. “They travel a treacherous, winding road of 100 miles plus — that’s awful. You might expect that if you live in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t know that we are. I’d be excited to bring that service here. It’s going to take a group effort, but I hope and pray that something can happen.”

He has no idea where a chemo or dialysis center would be located — except that it has to be closer than Medford, Coos Bay or Eureka.

The north end

Bair has not forgotten Gold Beach and Port Orford in these discussions.

The hospital and physicians’ clinic in Gold Beach need major updates and improvements, he said.

“It is certain this facility is tired and cannot survive another decade; it’s pretty worn,” he said. “And when I got to town, we found the annex to be more worn out than the hospital.”

Even though there is a physician on campus 24/7, and all are board-trained, the emergency room is busier than it used to be, and needs updating.

“We need a modern OR facility,” Bair said. “We just want to provide a safety valve for surgical emergencies. That’s all part of the interim until we get a new facility. That all has to happen right away.”

Bair would like to bring a specialist to the Port Orford clinic on a monthly basis.

“That’s the advantage of being a network; we can share services,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we want to promise something we can’t deliver. That’s always a challenge.”

Other ideas

The network has a recruiter, through whom they hope to find obstetricians, an orthopedic surgeon, pediatricians and an internal medicine specialist.

“These are the things you expect when you come to a community the size of Curry County — you expect to find those things and they’re strangely absent. And  what kind of red carpet do we roll out to our physician recruits when they come to town — and which ones do we want to recruit to town?” he said. “And who gets invited to the interview; maybe the community. And we have to try to recruit the spouse as well. Quite often they’re the ones who make the decision. They need to be comfortable with what’s going on, as well.”

Other goals include creating more accountability with staff and customers, better communications between departments and offering leadership training for employees.

“We have some great people; we really do,” Bair said. “It’s not something that’s talked about all that often, how we do things around here. If we’re not in alignment, it’s disjointed.”

He hopes to attain even greater accreditation through internationally recognized agencies, as well.

“The (state) Department of Health gives us a license; that’s the standard,” he said. “We want to hold ourselves to as high a quality as we can. We think our community, our families and neighbors should have the highest quality care.”

All these plans will cost money, Bair admitted.

“That’s part of the feasibility study. It’s why we’ve got to do the financials and see what our capabilities are,” Bair said. “This is my biggest fear. We don’t have any answers yet; there’s so much to work on.

“The goals we have seem so doable, but in a changing environment, what does that do? Right now, it looks like we can do them. If we can, I feel an obligation to do them, to step up and provide whatever level care is needed.”