By JIM MISUNAS
LARNED — From the moment John Hughes stepped into big shoes as the administrator at Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, he’s felt welcome.
The bar was set extremely high under prior Pawnee Valley administrator Matt Heyn, who guided the hospital for four years. Hughes wants to maintain that momentum. Hughes served as the hospital administrator at Ellinwood District Hospital prior to working at Pawnee Valley Community Hospital.
Pawnee Valley Community Hospital has been profitable from the first month the new hospital opened. It has earned more than $3 million in revenue in a month and has outpaced its projections to repay a $19.6 million bond.
“I want us to be the top critical access hospital in Kansas,” Hughes said. “We want to be the best in the United States. We have that ability. Pawnee Valley is in a great position. Pawnee Valley is looked at favorably by other critical access hospitals. We have that type of support and doctors.”
Hughes believes reliable healthcare is a major reason why local residents feel comfortable in their community.
“People don’t realize the economic impact that healthcare has in your community,” he said. “There is downhill revenue. employees spend money in town and there are additional services. It’s a lot bigger than what people think. People look at healthcare and schools when people move somewhere.”
Hughes said he’s especially appreciative of the oversight by HaysMed in Hays, which provides specialized medical care for services which Pawnee Valley does not offer, such as cardiology care.
“HaysMed is great. They have great accounting knowledge. They have a great knowledge base of professionals — a CFO and controllers. They add value to Pawnee Valley. We add value to HaysMed.
Hughes said he constantly keeps connected where healthcare is going. Existing and potential legislation is always a focus.
“We check legislation all the time — especially Medicare expansion,” Hughes said. “The one issue that always arises with rural healthcare is the physician’s supervision rule. Nurses have been doing work for years under physician’s direction with good outcomes. Kansans have approved good legislation and are very cognizant of issues for rural healthcare.”
Changing healthcare is also tied to technology.
“Keeping up with technology is a legislative issue too,” Hughes said. “Patients have begun checking information online through patient portals. We’re helping patients get informed. There may be federal mandates because they want to get things done where there is an exchange of information between facilities.”
Eleven Kansas hospitals were among hundreds nationwide that have been penalized for having high rates of infections or patient injuries. Medicare reimbursements at the hospitals will be reduced by 1 percent during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2014.
That’s why maintaining a high level of service is invaluable, according to Hughes.
“We submit that quality data too,” Hughes said. “Eventually, they will look at your quality data and you meet certain standards or you will lose 1 percent on Medicare reimbursement. I see professionalism at Pawnee valley. They take great pride in being innovative and being out there first. They don’t sit back here.”
Outside of Larned, Hughes still encounters the confusion between Pawnee Valley Community Hospital and Larned State Hospital.
“We want people to talk about Larned and think about Pawnee Valley when they think about a hospital,” he said. “We want people to understand and know Pawnee Valley as high quality healthcare.”
Hughes said he’s thankful he’s landed in Larned, a home he’s proud of.
“I am extremely excited. I feel good about being in the community. It’s a fabulous town. It’s a hidden gem.”
Hughes has 19 years experience in healthcare and his management style focuses on creating a team oriented organization that specializes in providing quality healthcare to meet the needs of the community they serve.
He’s has been involved in both professional and community activities. He has served as president of the Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce Board, as a member of the KAHCE Mentoring Committee, and as a member of the Kansas Hospital Association Governance Task Force.