Olas "Chip" Hubbs III
31, chief executive officer
Community Memorial Hospital
Hicksville, Ohio, home to Community Memorial Hospital, is located along the state's western border 25 miles northeast of Fort Wayne, Ind.
"Hicksville is a very nice community, a great little town," says Hubbs, the chief executive officer of the 25-bed facility. But he conceded, "Its name doesn't help any. And it can be a disadvantage in recruiting physicians."
When the 31-year-old Hubbs arrived in 2000 from Lutheran Hospital of Indiana, Fort Wayne, he found a rural public hospital that had lost money for four years and was on the verge of shutting down.
"It hadn't earned a profit on operations in 10 years," says Hubbs, who points out Community Memorial's annual loss averaged more than $350,000. "Last year we broke even on operations and this year we're up $110,000 through July. And we earned $220,000 net income on $13 million total revenue in 2001."
Hubbs, who previously served as executive director of several Lutheran Hospital physician groups in Fort Wayne, says he was impressed that a town like Hicksville, a farm community with fewer than 5,000 residents, supported a facility like Community Memorial.
"It's a very friendly organization in a small town where everybody knows everyone," says Hubbs, a graduate of Indiana University's health administration program. "But that can work against you, too. I found a lot of excuse making-people saying this was the way it's always been done. Well, that just wasn't working anymore."
How Hubbs, who arrived at Community Memorial at age 28, turned it around has won the admiration of board and community members in Hicksville and notice from state hospital association officials.
Raymond Riehle, a farmer and chairman of the hospital's board since 1974, says Hubbs had to step on some toes to make necessary changes.
"But he made people accountable and turned this into a strong organization," Riehle says.
Ted Durre, board president of the Mark-Milford-Hicksville Joint Township Hospital District, remembers Hubbs' first interview for the job almost three years ago.
"His references were good, but he was kind of young," Durre says. "When we talked to him, though, he showed he was sharp and in touch and got along real good with people. Right from the start he made quite a few changes, and in a small town everyone talks. Not everyone agreed with his actions, but we backed him and he handled himself well."
Hubbs says the first thing he did was assemble a senior management team and teach the staff the basics of budgeting.
"We went through Finance 101," he recalls. "And we focused on physician recruitment."
Although the hospital has only added one family physician, it hopes to grow from the current six primary-care doctors to nine within a year and saw a net gain of three specialists.
He says recruiting doctors is difficult. Although the hospital is only three miles from the border of Indiana, a state with a favorable medical malpractice environment and lower insurance premiums, it is located in a rural part of Ohio, a state with no cap on jury awards and significantly higher malpractice premiums.
Shortly after Hubbs' arrival Community Memorial applied and was accepted as Ohio's second critical-access hospital, entitling the facility to cost-based reimbursement, a designation that he estimated is worth $400,000 per year to the hospital. Community Memorial downsized and is planning to affiliate with an as-yet-unnamed health system. He is planning to expand the hospital's emergency room, the largest source of patient complaints, as well as the operating rooms and obstetrics services. The public hospital, founded in 1953 by three townships, receives no tax subsidies and is supported entirely from operations.
David Nichols, a field director for the Ohio Hospital Association, says Hubbs impressed him as an energetic leader very well connected to his community.
"He hit the ground running to turn around a hospital on the verge of closing," says Nichols, who points out that Hubbs is the youngest hospital CEO in Ohio.