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Got What It Takes to Run a Safety Net Hospital?

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 20, 2012

Do you have what it takes to be the CEO of a major metropolitan safety net hospital?

Probably not but don't feel too bad. Most people – most CEOs – don't either.

After reading the 12 pages of "position specifications" for the potential CEO candidates at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, it may be that there are only a few dozen resumes in the United States that would contain the experiences, credentials, and personal charisma needed to turn around a venerable healthcare system that serves the Big D's poor and vulnerable citizens.

With remarkable understatement, the specs sheet created for Parkland by executive recruiters Korn/Ferry International notes that the safety net faces "several significant challenges."

Those "challenges" include keeping the doors open and the lights on. The federal government has very publicly suggested that it will no longer pay the 835-bed system for Medicare and Medicaid services if hundreds of quality and safety measures are not improved upon.

Korn/Ferry says that federal mandate and the threat of lost federal funding combined with the construction of a New Parkland Hospital, and the demands of the Affordable Care Act "make the next few years perhaps the most critical in Parkland's storied 117-year history."

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1 comments on "Got What It Takes to Run a Safety Net Hospital?"


Bill Bliss (8/24/2012 at 4:42 PM)
While this article brings up some very good points, including the difficulty of filling this role, given the requirements and "12 pages of position specifications", what is clear is that for the newly hired CEO to succeed, s/he must be focused on the absolute top priorities that have the best opportunity to turn things around. All too often when a newly hired executive takes on the new role, they will fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people in an effort to "start strong". For success, this CEO must have a clearly focused plan for the first 30, 90,and 180 days that the Board (especially the Board Chair) fully support. In my many years of providing on-boarding or assimilation coaching to newly hired executives, including CEOs, it is critical for the 30, 90 and 180 day plan to be clear, credible, and have the needed impact the organization demands at this point in its history. At the CEO level, it is also hard to get the feedback early on that is so critically needed, unless of course there is a process for that - this is where the on-boarding coach can play a significant role. I only hope that the Board of this hospital will see the value in providing this service, and, with apologies to the search firm, an on-boarding program that is well beyond what is typically provided by the search firm. The investment the hospital is going to make in the CEO is substantial - it stands to reason they want to do all that is possible to ensure successful performance.