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VOL. 126 | NO. 21 | Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Members Appointed to MED Board

By Aisling Maki

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Three new board members were recently appointed to the board of the Shelby County Health Care Corp. by Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The Shelby County Commission approved the appointments of attorney Pamela McFarland Brown, the Rev. Keith Norman and former City Council member John C. Vergos to the 12-member board that governs the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

Brown, a graduate of Duke University and The George Washington University National Law Center, is an attorney with Johnson and Brown PC.

Vergos, who received his law degree from the University of Memphis, was elected to the Memphis City Council in 1995 and has served on numerous boards, including MIFA, Citizens to Preserve Overton Park and the Shelby Farms Advisory Board.

Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church in the Binghampton community, is the former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party and founder of the GREATER WORKS ministry.

“I applaud the work of the outgoing board members because they left us with a very stable and very strong start for The Med,” Norman said. “(Outgoing board president) Gene Holcomb has done tremendous work in the number of years that he served, as did other board members. They endured the crisis and brought us through the storms.”

Norman said he and the other new board members attended their first orientation at The MED Thursday.

“As a pastor in the community, I visit a lot of people who are in The MED, and I can tell you the cleanliness, the morale, the bright, open and new facilities, the improved rooms, and all of the things that are cutting edge in medicine and technology that we see being employed just gives you a great and positive feeling about The Med,” he said.

“It doesn’t feel like a public hospital. It feels like a very nice facility that you’d actually want to go to and receive healthcare. And when you look at the outstanding numbers that the trauma center and The Med have been able to achieve in terms of helping people long-term with their health care, it’s a very bright and encouraging outlook for the future.”

The commission also confirmed the reappointment of members Anthony McDuffie, Scott McCormick and Robert (Phil) Shannon to the board that includes Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer, MED President and CEO Dr. Reginald Coopwood, and two nonvoting members – the medical director and president of the medical staff.

“I was pleased that I had so many board appointments to make because I thought it gave us an opportunity to really take a look at getting some good people on the board who have the interest of the community at heart and can bring a new approach,” Luttrell said.

The MED board still has one vacancy, and Luttrell said he’ll be “filling that position very soon. We’ll have a full board and I’m just excited about the potential.”

Luttrell said there were two criteria he used in making board selections.

“One, I wanted someone who had a very deep appreciation for the role of a public hospital in an urban environment,” he said. “Secondly, people who had a very good eye for the bottom line – that’s financial stability. The biggest challenge facing us is stabilizing our revenue stream to meet our current needs and also to build some foundation for the future. You’ve got to have a good sense of business and a good sense of the balance sheet. But you’ve also got to have a very good heart for the role that a public hospital plays. The two are fundamental to the success of the facility.”

Last year saw landmark changes for The MED, highlighted by a budget surplus for the first time in the history of the hospital, which provides jobs for about 2,000 people and sees more than 200,000 patients in a year.

The MED ended 2010 with a positive bottom line of $5.5 million, a $26.5 million turnaround from the 2009 fiscal year, according to documents released at the hospital’s last board meeting.

The changes marked a significant improvement from 2009, when the hospital at times had only a few days of operating cash on hand, the result of a flat county subsidy, unpredictable financial support from Tennessee and neighboring states, and a declining payer mix.

Late that year, the facility was threatening to close some of its wards and part of its emergency department.

Now operating on firmer footing, not only are MED officials not worried about shutting down, they’re planning a number of capital investments, including an ongoing $200,000 project to convert 112 semi-private rooms into single-bed units, and $20 million in capital outlays, including a full electronic health record system.

“We’ve seen some significant changes for the better in the last year with Dr. Coopwood and at least some financial stability for the short-term,” Luttrell said of The MED’s CEO, who took over leadership of the public hospital in early 2010.

The mayor said he and Coopwood have spent a great deal of time together discussing the The MED’s future.

“Dr. Coopwood has a strategic plan that he hopes to unveil very soon,” said Luttrell.

“I think the timing is right considering all that transpired in the last few months, and we now have these new additions to the board that can also take a fresh look at all of the above. I’m excited about the confidence that’s growing around The MED, and all that’s on the horizon as far as the leadership, the board and the strategic plan.”

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