MARQUETTE - The new CEO of Ishpeming's Bell Hospital hopes he can help the organization to put some of the past behind it.
"I think you'll see where the Bell board and senior management has made significant improvements to enhance the operation," said new Bell CEO Floyd Bounds, who took the reins at the hospital on Sept. 10. "I'm here to take it even further and make it stronger."
Though Bell had some financial troubles in the past - the hospital announced a loss of about $7 million in fiscal year 2010 - Bounds said things have looked better recently. But he said certain aspects of the organization can still be fine-tuned.
"I have a great deal of experience in hospitals that have organizational challenges and I bring a lot of that experience to the table," said Bounds. "We have a couple of opportunities here with some organizational issues that we're going to be working on going forward."
The board, he said, has done a fine job of controlling expenditures in the last couple of years, and he would like to focus on revenue enhancement and on streamlining the hospital's interactions with insurance companies.
Bounds, who has spent 25 years in rural hospital administration, began his career in southeast Missouri. In subsequent years, work led him to hospitals in Illinois, Florida, Georgia and Idaho. He said that, over the decades, he built a reputation as someone who will come in and work to fix a hospital's finances.
"Some of the past hospitals I have worked at were in very serious financial trouble. That's true," he said. "And I went in and made the necessary adjustments to keep the organization alive. If you stop and look, every hospital I've worked in that I've had to make significant changes in, they're all still open."
Despite his history, though, Bounds said the Bell job is different, as the organization is in better shape than many rural hospitals.
"Bell is different than what I have worked in in the past. Bell is not in a horrible financial condition," he said. "Bell has some challenges and everybody can improve their financial position, but it's nowhere near some of them that I've worked in."
An annual audit - set to be released in the next couple of weeks - will help to shine a bit more light on what Bell's current financial position.
He said focal points that emerged during a recent board strategic planning session included a focus on evaluating that audit, working closely with bankers related to the hospital's current loans and looking at the future of health care, both locally and nationally.
Nationally, the health care landscape is being altered by the gradual implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the local health care world is shifting due to the sale of Marquette General Hospital to Duke LifePoint.
That change could bring both pros and cons for Bell, and Bounds said it will take some time to really understand what the MGH sale will mean for his hospital.
"At the same time Bell's board of directors and administration will be looking at what's best for Bell and the Ishpeming area and identifying those opportunities and moving forward," he said.
Bounds said he received a warm response this month at a meeting with the hospital's bankers, who he said approve of the "direction Bell has going forward and they're comfortable with the management decisions that have been made to enhance the operations."
For Bounds, a man who has worked at hospitals across the country in the last few decades, Ishpeming may be the last stop.
"I have an 18-month contract with the board," Bounds said. "That's a contract where there are some options to renew and extend forward. Like I told the board, this may be my retirement hospital. That's very possible."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is email@example.com.