Council candidates share thoughts on CRMC

By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ

COOKEVILLE – Concerns about the ability of Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) to recruit and retain employees in the current labor market, along with concerns about financial issues, such as medical reimbursements, top the list of important issues that Cookeville City Council candidates feel now face CRMC. 

It is important to note that three candidates, Jeremy Bowman, Brian Jones and Dee Prince, refused to answer this question. 

Every responding candidate mentioned concerns about recruiting and retaining employees and physicians, along with the need to increase wages for employees. 

“As employment opportunities increase in our community, employee recruitment and retention will become a greater challenge,” Ali Bagci, an 18-year employee of CRMC, stated. 

Chad Gilbert felt that the prioritization of human resources and recruitment were each so important that they warranted two spots in the top three most important issues facing CRMC.

Recruitment of all levels of employees, as well as physicians, is becoming more difficult in the current labor market. There are currently over 400 positions open at the hospital in all levels from environmental services to administrative positions.

Rising costs to provide healthcare, particularly with the need to increase salaries for current nurses and staff, was a concern expressed by current councilman, Eric Walker. 

Several candidates felt that financial issues were an issue for CRMC. Lynda Loftis-Webb felt that ethical billing practices in conjunction with customer service was important.

Current councilman and CRMC Board Member (representing the city of Cookeville), Laurin Wheaton, felt that negotiating reimbursement contracts with health insurance companies to provide affordable healthcare to its patients was an important issue for CRMC.

“CRMC will need continued capital investment in the hospital facilities and technology to continue to compete with the larger neighboring hospital corporations,” Walker stated.

In addition to neighboring hospitals, growth was cited as a key driver for expansion.

Population growth in our community is continuing to rise and meeting the challenges of increased patient volumes is a clear necessity, said Bagci.

Jordan Iwanyszyn agreed, identifying adjusting to the rapid regional growth and finding the needed space for facility growth as two important issues.

Luke Eldridge felt that the amount of homeless, substance abuse and mental health patients that are seen through the emergency room was biggest issue facing CRMC.

The need for increased services and technology advancements to stay competitive and provide the best care possible was a common theme among Bagci, Eldridge, Walker, Loftis-Webb and Wheaton.

The cultivation of business and hospital relationships was another top issue that Gilbert felt faced CRMC.

The perception that the “operations” of the hospital are owned by the city was listed as the most important issue facing CRMC by Miller, possibly referring to the many misconceptions that abounded in early 2022.  

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