FARMINGTON – After 35 years of running hospitals, Richard Batt has decided it’s time to retire – sort of.
As of Monday, Batt was replaced by Rebecca Ryder of Mission, Texas, as the new president and chief executive officer of Franklin Community Health Network, the parent organization of Franklin Memorial Hospital. Batt served for 15 years at FCHN’s helm.
At a farewell reception held in Batt’s honor Tuesday night, he said maintaining an independently run community hospital is unique in these days of massive national corporations running multiple facilities.
“It’s hard to run a small hospital,” Batt said. “But by maintaining our independence, we developed relationships with other community hospitals.” FMH partnerships include sharing specialists and services with Central Maine Medical Center’s cardiology center, with Maine Medical Center’s intensive care unit and with Maine General’s oncology department.
He noted that Franklin Memorial Hospital “is one of the most successful independent hospitals in the U.S.” and is most proud “of the wonderful organization that’s been built here, not just by me, but by many people here.”
Much of the success has been the emphasis on helping the community, Batt noted, through healthcare programs which address the needs of the rural area, such as the Healthy Community Coalition’s traveling mobile health clinic. Important, too, he said, has included the support and development of community projects and organizations, such as the Greater Franklin Development Corporation, funding school health programs and job creation through growth.
Despite the successes, the declining economy led to a recent announcement of a projected $3.5 million deficit for this fiscal year. As a counter measure, Franklin Memorial Hospital’s board of trustees voted to freeze salary increases for employees this year. Currently, the deficit totals $1.5 million for the first five months of the fiscal year.
“Clinical activity at the hospital and Evergreen Behavioral Services is down, and the percentages of patients seen requiring charity care or defaulting on co-payments for services are sharply up,” Batt said at the time of the announcement. “We have to adjust spending to match our lower income, otherwise we would eventually have very serious financial difficulties.”
Taking on these new responsibilities is Ryder, a Portland, Maine native, who got her professional healthcare start as a nurse at Mercy Hospital. She went on to manage hospital systems and, since 2006, was the interim chief executive officer of McAllen Medical Hospitals. McAllen is a health care system located in McAllen, Texas, consisting of three hospitals: McAllen Medical Center, McAllen Heart Hospital, and South Texas Behavioral Health Center.
As for Batt’s retirement, he isn’t really. He said he will take a few months off to travel and see family and friends and then he is coming back here to do consulting work throughout New England.
In a speech to the board of trustees, Batt concluded by saying, “I thank you for the privilege of leading this great organization. I want you all to keep it going well because I’m going to continue to depend on FCHN for my own healthcare. So don’t mess it up!”