During a public meeting last year, WhidbeyHealth Chief Financial Officer Ron Telles explains the need for a government loan to help finance numerous maintenance projects that were deferred for years. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

During a public meeting last year, WhidbeyHealth Chief Financial Officer Ron Telles explains the need for a government loan to help finance numerous maintenance projects that were deferred for years. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Hospital interim CEO presents to-do list

High quality patient care, respectful workplace, community involvement among goals

Making budget presentations “zing” instead of sag is one of many admirable management traits displayed by Ron Telles at WhidbeyHealth public meetings during the past four years as chief financial officer.

Whether the bottom line is red or black, Telles tells it like it is, said Ron Wallin, chairman of the Island County Public Hospital District board that oversees WhidbeyHealth.

“He’s upfront. He never candy coats it,” Wallin said. “He’s very straight forward and he has an excellent way to get people to understand the budget and the issues within it.”

A self-described numbers guy, Telles admits that he likes to explain charts and graphs and the difference between net patient revenue versus net operating revenue.

A bit of a nerd, maybe. But now he’s the nerd in chief.

Stepping into the role of chief executive officer, Telles promises openness, communication and trustworthiness in a statement of his commitment to WhidbeyHealth staff, patients and board.

Last Wednesday, he was named interim CEO after the board announced that Geri Forbes, hired as CEO in 2015, had resigned. Just weeks earlier, Forbes told the board of her intention to retire July 1.

Wallin said during last week’s special meeting that Forbes would continue to be employed as an executive consultant. Wallin said the intention is to name Telles as the full-time CEO during its May 13 board meeting.

Telles summarized his vision for the health care system with board members and WhidbeyHealth managers last week.

“I do have some things I want to accomplish quickly,” Telles said during an interview. “I need information from various customers, staff, providers, community, so we can make WhidbeyHealth, not only good, but great all the time — where we are the place where our community goes for health care, where our providers want to practice and where our employees want to work.”

In a statement of commitment given to the board, Telles said he wants to pursue shadowing employees in different areas and on various shifts to learn about everyday challenges. He also cited supporting a respectful work environment, recognizing and rewarding success and inviting and accepting feedback.

“Be Humble” is commitment number 14.

Telles lists honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, inclusion and legal and ethical compliance as the necessary ingredients to deliver high quality patient care, ensure financial responsibility, create support for providers and to ensure an excellent workplace. He also wants to take a leadership role in the community.

Wallin said that Telles’ people skills are among his many positive attributes that led the board to consider him as highly suitable to lead a health care system steeped in criticism and controversy.

“He has a really good approach to working with people,” Wallin said. “He’s really good at listening to staff and to people in the community. Ron knows the history of this health care system, the community and he already knows things that need to be tackled.”

Paying off debt, such as $3 million in construction cost overruns for the hospital’s new wing and pharmacy renovation, steadily declining numbers surgeries and a federal lawsuit are among the challenges Telles faces.

Being “a known entity versus an unknown entity” made Telles the obvious choice, Wallin said.

The hospital board was roundly criticized for hiring outside the system during its last CEO search when Forbes was selected from a hospital management role in Florida.

“The board feels like we can really work with Ron Telles because we know him,” Wallin said.

WhidbeyHealth expects about $111.5 million in net revenue this year; net expenses are predicted to be $111.4 million. Of that $104 million is patient revenue and nearly $6 million is tax levy revenue.

WhidbeyHealth employs about 800 people. It covers a 55-mile rural area and consists of a 39-bed medical center, ambulance services and eight outpatient clinics offering a variety of specialty care.

On average every day, 60 to 65 patients are seen in its emergency room and about 200 babies are born every year in its labor and delivery suites.

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