WIUM Tristates Public Radio

"Interim" Removed from President's Title at MDH

Apr 16, 2019

Brian Dietz came to Macomb more than nine months ago to lead McDonough District Hospital on an interim basis. He said he enjoyed it so much in Macomb that he has agreed to stay and serve as the hospital's new President & Chief Executive Officer.

“I really like this community. And I think my background and skill set fits well here to do a lot of good for the organization,” Dietz told Tri States Public Radio during an interview in his office.

Dietz said he has “a five year commitment” with MDH. He will be paid $450,000 in the first year of the deal.

“Our board and consultants did an outside analysis of what, in central Illinois, the pay level was for hospitals of a similar size for CEOs,” Dietz said.

Interview highlights:

TSPR: Do you take a different approach when you’re an interim versus being the person who is not the “interim” President and CEO?

Dietz: No, not at all. Management is management. You have to identify where you can be of use in terms of resolving issues and moving the organization forward.

I’ve done many, many years of turnarounds in my career. I wasn’t chosen for that purpose (for MDH). It wasn’t considered a turnaround situation. When you go into a turnaround situation you identify some pretty big areas that are in immediate need of change. But that wasn’t the case here.

TSPR: So what were your areas of focus when you came in here nine months ago? What were you focused on?

Dietz: Primarily the board had asked me to really dig in and to find out what’s been happening. There’s been a financial performance decline. It’s been for just the last couple years. I did a lot of financial analysis on the organization before coming here. The problem is the data that’s available in the industry is two years old. So the information that I had and I worked from before coming here showed a really strong financial performance, which is true and which is why the organization still has a very strong balance sheet. But the last two years there were downturns in financial performance.  

People tend to think there are financial issues, but there are operational issues. Finance follows operations. So what I did from Day 1 is to try to figure out where we had issues.

McDonough District Hospital
Credit Rich Egger

TSPR: What has needed work?

Dietz: The basic fundamental things: registering patients, getting pre-authorizations for procedures, posting accounts, denials from insurance companies. There are a lot of insurance companies out there – and it happens everywhere across the country – that make it very difficult for you to complete the billing process. They’ll send back bills just to send them back and delay the payment process.  And that we weren’t managing as aggressively as we should have.

So we’ve established metrics to track our performance. We’ve put dashboards in place to show how we’re doing. So day-to-day everyone knows whether we’re getting the job done so we can actually get bills out clean and properly done and collect on the work we’re doing.

TSPR: So the issues you’ve been focused on for the past nine months, are those the issues you’re focused on today and in the foreseeable future too?

Dietz: Yes. We’re getting to the point where in the next three or four months we should have closure on our revenue cycle issues, on some of those day-to-day management issues that have plagued us.

We’re looking at growth. We’re talking to a lot of regional partners to bring in more clinical services that we need. That’s been our number one focus as well as really addressing our operational issues on the management side of operations, not the clinical side.  Our goal is to grow and expand and to offer a greater array of clinical services to the McDonough County and Macomb region.

Every major regional player -- whether it’s HSH, Springfield Clinic, Blessing Health System, and OSF – are all interested in talking to us and all are interested in offering different types of sub-specialty services here.

We’re very encouraged by the level of interest. So as time goes on you should see us put in place a greater amount of clinical services to meet a greater need within this county.

TSPR: Do you anticipate merging with a larger health care provider?

Dietz: No, not at all. We just don’t have the need to do that. In fact, thanks to our longstanding historical financial performance – except for just the last couple years – we have a very strong balance sheet.

In this region in the last couple years there’s been a lot of small rural hospitals that have sold out to Unity Health and other organizations, I think because their history financially was not as strong as ours. That hasn’t been a thought here. There is no compelling need to do that and we prefer to remain independent as long as we possibly can. And right now we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to do that.

TSPR: The city of Macomb anticipates its population figure will be down in next year’s census. Is that a concern for the hospital – do you need a certain population number to remain independent?

Dietz: It’s something we’re always concerned about. But when you look at those numbers historically – if there are declines it’s not dramatic. It would take a real dramatic decline to have a big impact on us.

One of the by-products of expanding our clinical services is to expand our regional coverage area. As an example, we’re emphasizing recruitment of new obstetricians and get to three if we possibly can. The timeliness of that, plus opening up our new building this summer for deliveries, as well as we just received a letter from Galesburg Cottage Hospital that they’re closing their obstetrics services. We’ve been informed they do roughly 30 deliveries a month. Consequently, our goal would be with our investment in obstetrics is to really expand our service area. And in that service line particularly, as well as cardiology, be more of a regional player in the rural part of Illinois. And I think we can do that and do it very well.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.