The Ottumwa Courier

September 13, 2013

Phil Noel: ORHC ready to move forward

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The new CEO at Ottumwa Regional Health Center knows there are challenges to face, but they won't be his first.

Phil Noel came to Iowa from his hospital leadership job in San Antonio, Texas. While there, he was CEO of a specialty hospital, became chief operating officer for a 617-bed hospital and was then asked to be in charge of building a new hospital to replace an old one.

"It was a very tight timelines," he said Friday. "I worked seven days a week for a year, but it was very exciting. How often do you get to build a hospital?"

The logistics of moving staff and equipment from an old, 100-plus bed hospital to a new one, of planning where each department would be located so as to compliment other departments and of getting the facility up and running is a valuable part of one's background, Noel acknowledged.

"I can draw on those experiences here," he said.

So what does he need to do here, at ORHC, which is owned by RegionalCare Hospital Partners Inc. of Tennessee?

"I know there are challenges. Right now, and for the past month being here in an interim position, I've been doing a 360 [degree] evaluation."

Noel has been meeting with employees, doctors and members of the business community in Ottumwa.

Staff had questions and comments; he'd scheduled half an hour for forums, and they ended up lasting two or three times that.

"Employee engagement is very important," Noel said. "They [now] know I have an open-door policy. They can call, they can email. I gave every employee my cell number."

For his part of the employee forums, he said, he wanted staff to understand what was expected.

"We are accountable for everything we do — or don't do," he said.

He met with the medical staff as well; he considers them customers of the hospital. Doctors typically have their own practice at their own office. They come to ORHC to perform surgery or other procedures that require a hospital setting.

"To a physician, time is their most valuable commodity," Noel said. "We want to be sure we're good stewards of their time, and you don't want the patient waiting [either]."

Safety has to be the first consideration, but efficiency comes next. Doctors have a choice of places to do surgery, and Noel wants them to choose Ottumwa Regional for their cases.

The goal is to have an appropriate environment, he said, where safety comes first, where patients have a great experience and where employees want to come to work. He wants a hospital that the community feels comfortable using, knowing that they'll get "the best care, close to home."

Being isolated at a hospital is not a good thing for a CEO, Noel said.

"I look forward to being part of this community," he said, "of being actively engaged in the community."

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark