Cardwell and Michael Anaya, former chief executive officer for Colorado Plains Medical Center in Fort Morgan, Colo., were the two candidates forwarded by a selection committee for consideration by the full Powell Valley Healthcare board. They were two of four candidates referred by HealthTech (formerly Brim Healthcare), the company that provides management services at Powell Valley Healthcare.
As chief executive officer, Cardwell will be employed by HealthTech. Cardwell apologized for his resignation in November an explained his unusual circumstances.
The Powell Valley Healthcare board interviewed Cardwell and Anaya Tuesday evening. Both candidates cited successes in increasing market shares, expanding medical services, improving morale among physicians and staff and raising their hospitals’ financial status from operating in the red to operating solidly in the black.
Anaya, who retired from the military after 22 years, served first as a pharmacy tech and later as a hospital administrator.
After leaving the military, he went into private health care management, serving first as chief executive officer of a small hospital in Benkelman, Neb., then taking the position at Colorado Plains Medical Center.
He said he had Colorado Plains operating in the black after being there just over a year, “and a lot of that wasn’t rocket science.”
For instance, bookkeeping still was done on hand-written ledgers when he arrived; under his leadership, it converted to a computer bookkeeping system.
He changed the mix of physicians, emphasizing family practice and reducing the number of internal medicine doctors. He also promoted cooperation and collaboration between doctors and nurses, improving the work environment in the process, he said.
After four years there, Anaya left the hospital to take up a promising business opportunity with a partner, but after a year and a half, he realized he missed working in health care, he said.
Anaya said that, during his visit to Powell, “I recognized this community, this hospital, this system has a lot of opportunity ... There’s no reason you can’t look at yourself as a Level III Trauma Center (and) work with another health care system to grow.”
Cardwell took an early retirement in May 2010 after serving as chief executive officer of White County Memorial Hospital in Monticello, Ind., since 2001.
Cardwell said White County Memorial Hospital is similar in size to Powell Valley Hospital, but it is in an area also served by other hospitals.
Cardwell’s resume states he took the hospital’s cash position from $600,000 in 2001 to $10.5 million in 2009 and increased the hospital’s market share from 30 percent to 60 percent. A new replacement hospital was completed in October 2008 at the cost of $33.5 million, and a new medical office building was completed in November 2007.
After he arrived, Cardwell said the hospital purchased a new MRI and CT scanner and hired two obstetricians to attract a larger share of the area health care market.
“We had a group of physicians who weren’t very happy with the hospital,” he said. “Luckily for me, other hospitals around me weren’t doing much better. I visited with them about what was giving them grief, what would make their jobs easier.”
Once he figured out what that was, it became easier for them to make their rounds at predictable times, and easier for nurses and staff to be ready with what they needed, he said.
After that, “It was a word of mouth thing: ‘White County has figured out how to get me in and out faster,’” and recruiting and morale improved throughout the hospital, Cardwell said.
And, with those improvements, patients’ and families’ experiences in the hospital also improved, increasing the hospital’s market share to 60 percent.
Eventually, through affiliations, White County brought in a dialysis center and offered chemotherapy and radiation services as well, reducing patients’ need to travel for services.
Now, with a new hospital building and other improvements, “There’s a lot of pressure for White County Hospital to be absorbed by the big boys, the two neighboring big hospitals,” Cardwell said. “When I first approached them about collaboration, they just really chuckled. They’re not laughing anymore.”
Powell Valley Healthcare Board President Dr. Mark Wurzel said the board picked Cardwell again, in part, because he was more energetic and often used the word “we” instead of saying “I.”
In addition, “He seems to stay at jobs longer, and the board felt he would be here longer,” he said.
Wurzel said Cardwell plans to start the job in about a month. That will allow his wife, Kim, to give notice at White County Hospital, where she works as a nurse, and it will provide time for the Cardwells to find a home in Powell for their family of five.