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Q&A: Grady Health System CEO on Managing Through Crisis

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, March 28, 2011
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This article was originally published in the March issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

It’s been a rough 30 months for Michael Young as CEO of Grady Health System. If the Atlanta area’s public hospital had been a patient, it would have been rushed into emergency surgery and placed promptly in the intensive care unit once the cutting was finished. Now, the patient has been stabilized, so Young is taking more time in making decisions. Perhaps it would be fair to say that the patient has been moved to a private room and is scheduled for discharge fairly soon.

Things were not so rosy when Young was hired to lead what some undoubtedly thought was an impossible turnaround. To start, at the time, he was the fourth leader of Grady Health System in three years. Some of the mismanagement at Grady over the years prior to Young’s appointment could be attributed to its overly political governance structure. But still, there’s little excuse for many of its problems other than incompetence—simple sound business practices not followed, contracts not vetted, underperforming employees not let go—despite the fact that the system was losing tens of millions of dollars per year.

A strong personality, Young previously turned around Buffalo, NY-based Erie County Medical Center, and has not been shy about some of the problems he’s faced in his short tenure at Atlanta’s public hospital system. HealthLeaders recently sat down with him to discuss some of the strategies he’s used to make such a dramatic turnaround. The following is drawn from that conversation.

HealthLeaders: How complex were the huge financial problems facing Grady, and how did you decide what to fix first?

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