During the Christmas holidays, Thomas Royer, M.D., then the new interim CEO of Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, TX, played piano in a lounge for senior citizens because it was his annual tradition for 45 years, and he wasn't about to stop now—even if some may have felt he was tickling the ivories on the deck of the Titanic.
Even with the holiday mood, he was mindful of the difficult job he had taken on. During those early days as interim CEO, he met with hospital leadership teams, employees, and visited the inpatient and outpatient units as part of the task he had voluntarily assumed: to right the sinking Parkland.
Royer, who was named to the interim leadership post on December 1st, has been overseeing the safety-net hospital as it works to overcome dozens of deficiencies identified by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
These were shortcomings that the federal agency last year deemed so dire as to create an immediate and serious threat to patient health and safety. At risk were millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid payments.
After several months on the job, Royer remains unfailingly polite, and willing to talk about Parkland at a time when many of his peers in similar situations, might have been more tight-lipped.