Wurzel made his remarks during the opening moments of a two-day planning retreat for Powell Valley Healthcare leaders and employees late last month.
He noted a few key leaders resigned or retired, including former Chief Executive Officer Rod Barton and former Chief Financial Officer Steve Ramsey, knocking things and people a bit off balance.
“We hired Paul (Cardwell), then he resigned, and it seemed like our normal status was chaos,” Wurzel said. “I started to see us losing faith in ourselves and each other. We didn’t just lose faith in how we operated in our system; we started arguing with each other and with ourselves.”
Wurzel referred to the emotional and institutional scars left after Cardwell’s resignation as chief executive officer in September, followed by the lawsuit and criminal charges filed in recent weeks, alleging Cardwell embezzled nearly $850,000.
During the time between, “There were a lot of things about what happened that were very secretive. Being secretive was not intended to put anyone in a compromised situation; it was on the advice of attorneys,” Wurzel said, adding, “It was hard keeping secrets.
“We are going to pursue compensation or redress of what has happened from Paul very intensely. I just want you to know that.”
Beyond that, he said, “I would like to restore our faith in the system, ourselves and in each other.
“Today, we have a new CEO, a chance to start over, a chance to ... bring everybody together.”
Neil Todhunter, who was promoted recently to president of HealthTech Management Services Inc., commended Wurzel’s opening remarks, which he said were “honest, thoughtful and trying to get everybody on the same page.”
HealthTech employed Cardwell, and now employs Bill Patten, through its contract to provide leadership at Powell Valley Healthcare.
“With the Cardwell situation, it’s easy to get into a situation where you point fingers at each other,” Todhunter said. “I can tell you our relationship with Powell Valley Healthcare is very collegial, very cordial. We are working with them to recover losses ... making sure we get this headed in the right direction.”
Patten said the strategic planning retreat offered him a unique opportunity to gain information and perspective on the organization and to assess its strengths and its needs.
“This is day four of week five,” he said. “The learning curve is still incredibly steep for me.”
Patten said it is time for Powell Valley Healthcare to pull together for the betterment of the organization, patients and its employees.
“All of us believe we give great service, but the reality is, more often than we might like, it just isn’t so,” he said.
Common health care complaints include lack of courtesy, long waiting times, lack of privacy, insufficient explanations of tests, not enough attention given to family or friends, discharge instructions not explained well and personal needs not met, he said.
“We can’t make this all about (Cardwell),” Patten said. “Some of these things have been building for three years, or five, at least. I encourage you to accept that, and that each of us has a role in making these changes.”
The strategic planning focused on five strategies:
• Service — enhance customer relations.
• People — develop a high-performance workforce.
• Finance — improve financial operations and viability.
• Quality — demonstrate continuous quality improvement.
• Growth — expand market share.
Needed changes identified during breakout sessions included:
• Additional operating rooms to meet the demand for orthopedic and other surgeries.
• Centralizing services to improve efficiency.
• Employees becoming ambassadors for the organization and making Powell Valley Healthcare their own provider of choice.
• Improved communications.
• “Reimbursement 101” — helping providers and office staff learn how to categorize and bill correctly for services to reduce the number of claims denied initially by Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies.
• Collecting co-pays at time of service when possible.
• Base pay raises, at least in part, on performance.
• Build relationships with specialists.
• Know what services Powell Valley Healthcare provides, help make community aware of them.
• Continual focus on quality.
Areas of possible growth identified included:
• Mental health/psychiatry.
• Chemotherapy infusion center.
• Pain clinic.
• Midwife services.
Patten said change, even planned and desired change, can be difficult.
“It’s not necessarily going to be easy; sometimes, it’s not even going to be fun. But at the end of the day, we will know we’ve done our best to take care of patients.”
Planned changes also must be measured and implemented carefully, he said.
“As Paul came in with these great schemes, I’m going to preach caution,” he said. “We can’t do it all, especially in the first three months.”
Patten urged people to remember what Powell Valley Healthcare is all about.
“We are literally taking care of friends, neighbors and family members,” Patten said. “Never underestimate the difference you can make.”
Pharmacy director Tim Seeley put it this way: “Our name is Powell Valley. When you get right down to it, Powell is us.”