One step backward; two steps forward. Paul Taylor knows a thing or two about taking the path less traveled.
Taylor never set out to be a health care system administrator. The job found him. And at 60, he says the job requires all the resources he could bring to the table.
“I’ve had a lot of education,” he says. “And I’ve had to use every bit of mental energy and education I’ve had to meet the demands this job requires, or this organization may not continue.”
Taylor, a former city attorney for Webb City, had planned to be a writer. He received his bachelor’s in English in 1978 from Dartmouth College. He then earned a master’s from the University of Missouri – teaching at the school from 1981-87 – and was well on his way to a doctorate before switching gears and nabbing a law degree.
His education in health care administration came in the form of on-the-job training when Webb City’s public hospital closed its doors in 1990 – a result of an outside company, which ran the hospital, going belly up.
“There was no way to reopen,” Taylor says. “It was devastating. It left a mark on me.”
By 1991, Taylor was approached about trying to save the old Doctor’s Hospital in north Springfield based on his experience in Webb City. Its transformation to Ozarks Community Hospital was led by Taylor, who took the reins as CEO in 1992.
After years of system expansion primarily through the addition of rural health care clinics, a blow to operations came in July 2016 when OCH announced it was laying off roughly 200 local workers. Taylor says the move was necessary after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would discontinue its Medicare agreement with OCH in Springfield amid declining inpatient numbers.
It was something of a Catch-22 for Taylor, who continues to fight the move through appeals. In his appeal to the decision, Taylor wrote, “CMS is picking on us because we decided to provide primary care to at-risk patients.” In an effort to decrease costly emergency and inpatient visits, Taylor says OCH has doggedly focused on growing its primary care physicians staff.
During the last two months of 2016, Taylor says OCH is adding five new rural physician offices, which will grow its systemwide staff to 787 by Jan. 1, 2017, from 752 in early November.
OCH has three large health clinics in the Springfield area, 13 rural clinics and a hospital and primary care clinic in Gravette, Arkansas.
Taylor says OCH’s aims were right, and while he says it seems unlikely the health care providers could afford to reopen emergency and inpatient services in Springfield should it win its appeal, OCH could be an important case study for the federal CMS.
“I’m optimistic. I’ve lived my life according to the assumption that things are going to get better,” he says.
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The move would come with a new property tax levied on residents of regional school districts.
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