Hospital Changes Leadership

Stewart Houston Times

Patients' Choice Medical Center has a new leader at its helm.

Friday was the final work day for Yvette Gillespie, administrator and chief executive officer of the hospital for the past seven years. Gillespie resigned in May.

Ray Shoemaker, whose company, Rural Healthcare Developers, purchased the former Trinity Hospital in November, has stepped in and assumed the role of CEO for an "uspecified amount of time."

"I wanted to come and be a part of the community," said Shoemaker, who has already moved to Erin.

Shoemaker said Gillespie left her position "by choice."

"Thee are no issues with the current ownership and Yvette," Shoemaker said. "In fact, I have a high regard for Yvette and what she has done with this hospital and in this community…and her passion for healthcare."

Gillespie said she plans to take some time off, including a vacation to the beach, and is not sure which direction her career will take. Just recently she became co-owner of Oak Brook Retirement Living.

Shoemaker said he plans to continue building on "what has already been built here," and does not foresee any drastic changes.

"Right now my focus is to get a feel for the community, management team and employees," he said.

Shoemaker will eventually be looking for a new administrator, but for the time being, he will be guiding the day-to-day operations.

"I am here as long as I need to be," he said. "The intent is for me to work here for some time."

The hospital announced in January 2008 that Rural Healthcare Developers wanted to purchase the hospital, which had been struggling financially for at least 18 months., but the purchase was bogged down by the hospital's huge debt -the result of the hospital being used as collateral for loans made to former owners, Hospital Corporation of America.

The hospital filed for bankruptcy in August, which reduced the debt load and cleared the way for the purchase to be finalized.

"Things are better," Shoemaker said. "But we are not where we want to be."

Some changes may be made as Shoemaker becomes more familiar with the day-to-day activities, but those changes will be identified by the management team, he said.

One thing Shoemaker already knows is that Patients' Choice has "very committed employees and physicians very committed to the success of the hospital.

"The challenges we face are the challenges the entire nation is facing economically," said Shoemaker, who sees his role as being able "to find a way to improve on our fine performance."

The management team will be looking at growth and areas in which the hospital can improve.

"Our goal will be to expand our core business, which the hospital is already doing with its "swing bed" program, a step-down from acute care.

Patients' Choice also is planning in the next few weeks to debut an inpatient geriatric psychiatric program. The program - for patients aged 50 and older - will focus on issues relative to aging.

Though the lower end of the age bracket is 50, Shoemaker said he expects the general population will be 65 and older.

The hospital does have space for the geriatric program, though Shoemaker said some "very minor moves" will need to be made.

"Our goal is to provide the highest level of care that we can in this community," he said.

Toward that end, the hospital recently opened a wound care center. Headed by Jennifer Morff, center staff works with patients who have issues with wounds that won't heal.

"We see a big need for that in the community," Shoemaker said.

The center opened two weeks ago.

The timing of this move has been good for Shoemaker, he said. Because school is now out, his family will be able to spend a great deal of time in Erin with him.

Shoemaker hails from Mississippi and is only three hours from home - closer than any of the other facilities owned by his company.

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