Mercy Health Love County - News

With 25 Years, Barker is State's Dean of Administrators

Posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2015



25 Years as Hospital Administrator: Richard Barker (center),
FACHE, holds a 25th anniversary gift card signed by
coworkers. Barker has been hospital administrator since
March 1, 1990. His employment dates to 1973.

 25th Anniversary Recognized

After its regular business meeting on March 26, the Love County Health Center Board of Control recognized Richard Barker, FACHE, on his 25th anniversary as hospital administrator.

Board president Dr. Jack Testerman presented a plaque of congratulations from the board and staff. "Your efforts have led to unparalleled improvement and expansion of our Health Center," the plaque reads in part.

"Richard is an outstanding administrator and individual, an asset to the entire county, as well as the hospital and clinic," Testerman said. "He has done an exceptional job in forecasting trends and getting the hospital in the best possible position for success."

After a check with the Oklahoma Hospital Association, it was determined that Barker, with 25 years, is the state's longest-serving hospital administrator. Other long-service administrators are Alan Adams, 23 years at Stillwell's Memorial Hospital in Adair County; Joe Moeller, 21 years at Stillwater Medical Center; and Marilyn Bryan, 20 years at Roger Mills Memorial Hospital in Cheyenne.

"I can't put it strongly enough," said Board member Bob Brannan. "His work here has been phenomenal. There is no vocabulary for expressing the sense of caring Richard has for the hospital and the county. He and his wife Connie, are all about helping others. He doesn't brag, but the vision and the thinking he brings to the Board have produced powerful results for health care in the community."

Barker's hospital service dates to 1973, one year after the hospital opened. He has been managing the organization since 1990. The 1980s had seen a rash of rural hospital closures in Oklahoma, and the Love County Health Center also was in peril, board members and staff said, when turning to Barker, the facility's respiratory therapist, on March 1, 1990.

Under Barker's leadership, the hospital rallied and there commenced a series of improvements and strategic alliances that, 25 years later, had turned Mercy Health/Love County into one of the most successful Critical Access hospitals, according to cost reports of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Key additions to the hospital since 1990 have included:

  • Medical Clinic, added in 1998 and enlarged in 2011.
  • EMS/Fire Brigade, added in 2008. This is believed to be the first hospital-based EMS with a fire brigade in the country.
  • Rehabilitation Therapy Building, added in 2010.
  • Adult Day Center, added in 2014.
  • Social Services Building, added in 2014.
  • Emergency Department Wing, triple the size of the existing ER, added in 2015. 

"Keeping the educational pursuit alive and well is key for the hospital. We need to be lifetime learners to help at each higher level the community requires," Barker said.

Early in his career with the hospital, Barker worked as an EMT and ambulance driver. From 1979-1990, he was the hospital's respiratory therapist and manager of preventive medicine and ambulance service.

He earned numerous college degrees and professional certifications while working fulltime. He holds master's degrees in health care administration (University of Minnesota) and business administration (Ottawa University in Kansas). He holds undergraduate degrees in hospital service management and cardio-pulmonary studies. He is a registered respiratory therapist and holds licensures in respiratory care practice and long-term care administration. In 2012, he earned Board certification as a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE).

In the community, Barker has been president of the Love County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Marietta City Council.

Barker graduated from Thackerville High School in 1969. He was a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant during a tour of duty in Vietnam. After returning home, he worked briefly as a police officer and Love County sheriff's deputy. He said answering the many medical calls for service inspired him to acquire training in emergency medicine. Not long after becoming an EMT, he joined the hospital fulltime.

As hospital administrator and CEO, Barker has a reporting relationship to the Hospital Board of Control, the Health Center Foundation Board, and the EMS (ambulance) Board (the hospital manages the ambulance service). Each Board is made up of Love County citizens appointed by the elected Love County Board of Commissioners.

Outside of the county, under the hospital's management agreement, Barker is regional director of Mercy Health System. He also is deputy secretary for the Chickasaw Nation's department of health.

The hospital's relationship with Mercy dates to 19976. Mercy provides accounting, billing, and engineering support, as well as access to bulk purchasing of medical supplies and equipment. The Love County Health Center pays for the lease of employees plus a nominal monthly consulting fee.

The hospital's contractual relationship with the Chickasaw Nation goes back to 2003. When WinStar Casino opened, the hospital agreed to provide ambulance, first aid, and emergency medical services. In 2008, when WinStar's highrise hotels went up, the contract expanded to include fire servces. The Chickasaw Nation built and equipped the Love County EMS/Fire Brigade station at WinStar Casino.