New interim CEO for Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital confident hospital will survive

New interim CEO for Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital confident hospital will survive

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Gary Stokes, new interim CEO for Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital is confident hospital will survive.

The new interim CEO for Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital Gary Stokes' current task at hand is leading the hospital district to financial recovery.

A morning reception is a casual setting for Stokes to get started as he meets some of more than 700 employees at the financially strapped hospital.

"We're glad you're here," said one employee who came out of retirement to work at Memorial, just as Stokes is doing.

For some Stokes is no stranger.

"In my previous job requirements I worked at Med Center for 9 years," said Memorial’s lab administrative director Amanda Horn.

And under the leadership of Stokes who was Nacogdoches Medical Center's CEO for 10 years. That former relationship leaves a burning question. Will this set the stage for Medical Center's owner, Tenet Healthcare, to take over the hospital district?

Stokes’ answer is, "I could tell them that's not on the agenda."

But not entirely impossible. Nacogdoches Memorial Board of Directors has hired a firm to seek a hospital service partner.

"Probably be a six to nine-month process to find a suitable partner. I don't know, maybe Tenet could be in there, maybe it's not, but that group will basically screen and make the right match for the hospital," explained Stokes.

Stokes refers to Nacogdoches as a two-hospital town fully capable of supporting both facilities and not the cause for Memorial's financial problems.

"There's nothing systemically wrong with this hospital. This hospital is a solid hospital, but it has problems, but all hospitals do," said the 40-year health industry leader.

Stokes says it’s commendable Nacogdoches Memorial has survived, but the regulations and expenses for stand-alone hospitals serving the disadvantaged are why so many are closing.

The dual leadership skills of Stokes and Rhonda McCabe, Memorial's chief financial officer who withdrew her name for the CEO position, may be the team the hospital needs.

"Last year at this time we were at a $7-million loss. So thru December we're at a $91,000 gain,” said McCabe. “With Mr. Stokes coming on board that just adds to the strength of our management team and where we can move this hospital."

Employee attrition has led to streamlining. Stokes will decide if tougher decisions are in order.

"Any hospital has to look at layoffs just about every day, so there might be some areas, but there is no master plan for massive cuts. I'm not coming in here to sit down and create a riff list," assured Stokes.

The Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation chair knows how vital the jobs are to Nacogdoches. He wants thirty to sixty days to put the framework together for a stable community hospital.

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