New Palo Pinto General Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ross Korkmas knows he is arriving at an opportune time.
“Mineral Wells is on the cusp and is well-positioned for great things going forward,” said the 40-year-old Korkmas.
He said it is important the hospital prepare for the area’s forecast growth to meet anticipated increases in medical needs and demands.
But first things first. His first day on the job was Tuesday, and Korkmas has been busy trying to meet as many of the hospital’s 300 employees as possible and visit all of the service areas and facilities, as well as meet welcoming community members.
“I have enjoyed getting to meet as many people as I can. It’s been good,” he said. “I did try to get around as much as I can. I still have places I need to go to. I definitely want to get involved in the community. That is something I am really looking forward to.”
While learning names and faces, Korkmas has also been busy familiarizing himself with new systems, including PPGH’s now year-old online patient services and billing platform, along with the hospital’s financial operations and the proposed fiscal year 2020 operating budget and tax rate ahead of adoption in the coming weeks.
Korkmas previously told the Index he was unable during the interview process with Palo Pinto County Hospital District trustees to tour the westside medical complex. In doing so the past few days, he said he is impressed. He called PPGH’s Wellness Center “a pleasant surprise.”
“It’s a beautiful facility,” he said. “The hospital is well kept, looks good. I think we are on the right track.”
The main hospital building is 50 years old and has undergone recent repairs and upgrades to deal with some of that aging infrastructure.
“It’s not uncommon to have a hospital of this age and we are going to look at areas where we can do renovations and updates and continue to move the hospital forward,” he said.
His early impressions are that PPGH, an acute care facility, is offering a variety of good medical and health services through its emergency room and staff, general surgery, orthopedics, cardiology, OB/GYN, pain management and more.
“I think the services are great for the size of community we are,” Korkmas said. “We have to be smart with what services are offered in the community. We have what I call bread and butter medicine provided here in the community that is great for the folks to keep them from having to drive too far away.”
He said looking ahead it will important to improve current services while looking to see what makes sense to add to the hospital’s current medical and health care offerings.
“(We need to) continue to grow service lines, continue to recruit physicians to the community, continue to provide high-quality, safe patient care,” said Korkmas. “One thing I would like to look at is receiving specific certifications – like total joint certification, stroke certifications, chest pain certifications. Those certifications take you down a path of best practices and we want to be sure we provide the best service to the community. One of the ways you do that is by making sure you are following tried-and-true best practices within medicine.”
Maintaining sound financial operations are also important. PPGH has operated in the black in recent years while other rural hospitals have either closed or eliminated some services. The hospital district’s property tax revenue only covers about half of the annual charity care provided.
Still, the hospital several years ago constructed its new professional health center debt free and has reinvested millions of dollars back into the hospital through technology upgrades, remodeling and expanding areas such as the ER and women’s services while adding new services.
Korkmas said that is a testament to the financial oversight by administration and the board of directors as well as community support.
“We are fortunate we have the physicians, the community support and the staff here,” he said. “I think those are some of the reasons why the hospital has performed well financially. One of the things every hospital faces is changes in regulations, changes in payments. Our costs continue to go up at a faster rate than reimbursement is paying hospitals. That is a universal truth across the U.S. Expenses are rising faster than our reimbursements. Pharmaceutical expenses certainly play a part into that.”
Korkmas comes to PPGH after serving as chief executive officer for AllianceHealth Woodward in far northwest Oklahoma, near the Panhandle. While similar in some ways, one big difference is the Oklahoma hospital was not taxpayer supported. Another difference is Korkmas’ previous hospital did not have to provide charity care, he said. Not because they refused to provide it, but because it was non-existent.
“We didn’t have it,” said Korkmas. “It didn’t exist. We would have taken it if it was there. That was not an option. Geographically Woodward was well-positioned, being the biggest hospital up in that corner of the state. There was a better payer mix in Woodward. But that geographical location played a big part in where our volume came from.”
That is vastly different in this community.
“The charity care here is significantly higher here than at the hospital I came from,” he said. “There is a higher community need here and we are happy to have the tax support to help provide for those who need it in our community.”
Before his two-year tenure with AllianceHealth Woodward, Korkmas worked four years as chief operating officer for Medical Center of South Arkansas and before that was Director of Facility Operations for Cedar Park Regional Medical Center, near Austin. Prior to working in Cedar Park, he held administrative positions in the DFW area at Medical Center of Lewisville, and began his career as an Emergency Management Coordinator & DPS Analyst for the City of Southlake.
While at Medical Center of South Arkansas, Korkmas was named to the Arkansas Business News’ “40 Under 40” list in June 2017. The award is given to 40 business and political leaders under 40 years old and identified as rising stars in the state.
Korkmas holds a Master of Health Care Administration degree from the University of Texas-Arlington, a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Texas, and numerous certifications in emergency, crisis and incident prevention. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and Rotary International and served on the Oklahoma Hospital Association’s Council on Quality and Patient Safety.
The Korkmas family was excited for the opportunity to return to North Texas. He and his wife, Kelly, are from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He said they are happy to return to the area and be closer to their families.
Kelly is a registered nurse, and the couple have two daughters, Madison and Peyton. They are relocating to the Possum Kingdom Lake area, expecting to close on their new home this week.
He said they have enjoyed their welcome thus far and look forward to getting to know more people and exploring their new surroundings and community.
“Everyone is very nice, extremely pleasant, very friendly,” said Korkmas. “I can’t say that enough. Everybody I have met have been kind and welcoming. And the same thing in the community. Everyone in the community is excited to have me here and my family, which makes it an easy transition for me.”
Korkmas replaces previous hospital CEO Harris Brooks, who was terminated by the board a year ago after an improper pass-through billing scheme was uncovered. Brooks was charged with federal fraud and pleaded guilty. Last month he was sentenced to five years probation and restitution of $2.4 million for three named healthcare insurance companies, along with performing 250 hours of community service.