Year in review: NMMC system weathers year of extremes

North Mississippi Medical Center has seen leadership changes and workforce reduction in the past year. (File photo)

North Mississippi Medical Center has seen leadership changes and workforce reductions in the past year. (File photo)

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – For Tupelo-based North Mississippi Health Services, 2013 was a roller coaster year, with high achievement in the spring, leadership changes in the summer and a workforce reduction in the fall.

In April, the health care system that includes six hospitals and more than 30 clinics, received the nation’s highest award for business, the Baldrige National Quality Award at a ceremony in Baltimore. In earning the Baldrige – which flagship hospital North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo won in 2006 – NMHS became part of an elite group of American companies that can claim multiple national quality award wins. System chief executive John Heer also became the first executive to lead three Baldrige efforts in his career.

In June, NMMC-Tupelo President Steve Altmiller, who had been with the hospital since 2009, announced he was taking a new position as the chief executive for a three-hospital system in Longview, Texas.

The system initially named Tim Moore, who had served as system vice president for community hospitals, as his successor. But in August, Moore accepted a position as the executive director of the Mississippi Hospital Association.

In August, Heer, who had led the system for nine years, announced he was stepping down.

In early November, the board of directors announced it hired Shane Spees, a Tupelo native who lead the Birmingham-based Baptist Health system.

Among the top items on Spees’ to-do list when he starts in January, will be hiring a new NMMC-Tupelo president and a vice president for community hospitals.

In late November, the system announced a workforce reduction of 109 people – 1.7 percent of its system workforce citing shifts in the way care is delivered, declining reimbursement and other factors. The system also saw uncompensated care increase substantially. For the 2012 fiscal year, North Mississippi Health Services provided $101.7 million in charity care, nearly $20 million more than in the 2011 fiscal year, according to its community report.

The cuts were mirrored around the country. Through the fall, roughly 41,000 in the health care sector had lost jobs, including at NMHS. The changing hospital landscape also has contributed to layoffs at Cleveland Clinic and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com