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Rick Flores retires from role as CEO of the Big Bend region’s primary hospital

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Carlos Morales
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Marfa Public Radio
Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, Texas.

The CEO of the Big Bend region’s primary hospital has retired after leading the facility through the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges facing many rural hospitals across the country.

A spokesperson for Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine said on Tuesday that Rick Flores retired so he could “focus on his family.”

“We are grateful for his service over the past five years,” BBRMC Director of MarketingLorrie Cobos said. “To ensure a smooth transition, Greg Kiser, a seasoned rural hospital leader with decades of experience, will serve as interim CEO as we conduct a national search.”

Kiser is currently CEO of Three Rivers Medical Center in rural Louisa, Kentucky. The small hospital is owned by Quorum Health, the same parent company of the Alpine hospital.

Flores, an El Paso native, was first hired as the interim CEO of BBRMC in 2018. His tenure has been marked by a number of challenges that small hospitals have faced across the country, including COVID-19 and financial struggles.

In early 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, BBRMC’s parent company Quorum Health announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Flores said at the time the decision was “an important step toward long-term financial stability” and that hospitals across the country were facing “unprecedented challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The company emerged from bankruptcy a few months later after a restructuring.

Like many rural hospitals in the U.S, the Alpine hospital has in recent years weathered staffing shortages that in 2022 prompted former employees to raise their concerns publically, as the Big Bend Sentinel reported at the time.

Late last year, the hospital announced the opening of a new BBRMC-affiliated clinic in Presidio staffed by one doctor and a family nurse practitioner, bringing better health care access to the historically under-resourced community.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.