Search for next CEO slated to begin this fall
Fishermen’s Hospital CEO Kim Bassett once said during a county hurricane preparation conference that she was “just a nurse trying to run a hospital.”
Next Thursday, she will bid the Middle Keys community farewell when Quorum Health Resources, Inc. officially assumes management of the facility.
The staff about whom she always raves and praises, Bassett said, are concerned about the changeover.
“It’s about more than one person or a building,” Bassett said from her current post with as interim CEO at St. Cloud Regional Medical Center in Osceola County, Fla. “But I just kept telling them that on July 1, they’ll get up in the morning, put on their scrubs, go to work and do the same great job they’ve always done.”
Fishermen’s Hospital board member David Kirwan said that though the HMA lease officially ends next Thursday, June 30, the details, specifically the contract negotiations, are taking place over time.
“We are continuing most of the contracts and employees policies for the immediate future, but they will be subject to review as we go forward,” Kirwan told The Marathon Weekly. “Quorum is dealing with a lot of detail work involving contract negotiations with those as well as physicians employed by the hospital.”
From nurse to CEO
In the late 80s, Bassett was working as a nurse in West Palm Beach and spending every spare moment diving the reefs and wrecks in the Florida Keys. She eventually landed a job at Lower Keys Medical Center and took on every continuing education opportunity that came available to her.
“I eventually wound up as the director of nursing, but became more and more frustrated with the finance people when they told me no to every request for things like more staff or new equipment,” she recalled.
So, she decided to return to school to study business in order to “speak their language.”
Bassett recalled listening to a speech from the hospital’s then CEO noting that hospitals run by nurses proved to have higher satisfaction ratings among their patients. Shortly thereafter, she fielded a call from a division officer of Health Management Associates (HMA) imploring her to report to duty at Fishermen’s Hospital.
“I’d never been a CEO before,” she laughed. “I asked him if I could have some time to think about it, and he told me to ‘Make it work.’”
The following day, she traveled to Marathon from her home in Big Coppitt, toured the hospital and decided to take the position that fateful day in September of 2005. At the end of the day, she was handed to keys to the facility and told to call if she had any questions.
“I remember sitting down to go through my emails that evening, and I was terrified,” she recalled. “I decided to go hang out at the nurses station, because I was always more comfortable there.”
Two weeks later, Hurricane Wilma’s floodwaters covered the Middle Keys and Lower Keys, and she and her husband were forced to take up residence at the facility along with six other families who lived in patient rooms while they recovered their lives and possessions.
“We did not lose one employee in that time period,” Bassett said proudly. “Everyone stayed together. I lived at the hospital until the following January, and it was the most amazing family I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of!”
Physician recruitment was one her biggest challenges as CEO, and that task will officially be in the hands of acting CEO Scott Landrum as of Friday, July 1.
Bassett said the cost of living in the Keys, coupled with the challenge of recruiting younger physicians who often still desire affiliation with a major hospital or university, made it seem an insurmountable task to bring new doctors into the hospital.
“More and more these days, doctors just want to be employed. Between insurance companies and government regulations, everyone is trying to tell them how to practice medicine,” she admitted. “Physicians don’t get the respect they deserve, and it’s definitely harder on a private practice these days.”
So, what is she going to miss most about her post of nearly two decades?
“There’s always so much laughter in our hallways, between the staff and patients,” Bassett reflected. “I always tell all new employees that taking care of people is the most important part of our jobs. People can’t remember the last five Miss Americas or the last five Nobel Peace Prize winners, but everyone can always name the last five people that made a difference in their lives.”
She’ll also miss impromptu games of bingo organized by the employees’ club, background checks that reveal employees have bloodlines connected to royalty and commutes that last only minutes.
The next round of leadership
As hospital management officially prepares for the changeover next Friday, Kirwan reported that the board’s main objective for the immediate future is to make the transition as seamless as possible. In terms of the search for a new CEO, Kirwan said Landrum’s commitment to Fishermen’s will continue through January 2012.
“He will continue to serve as the CEO until then, so that search will likely not begin until the fall,” he added.
The idea of a special taxing district to support the hospital was tossed around during community meetings amidst the search for a new management company, but Kirwan confirmed there are no present plans for the board to pursue that funding stream.
“The hospital is able to support itself if properly managed, which it has been and will continue to be,” he concluded.