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5 Hospital CEOs Who Get It

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, October 13, 2010

Jim Hornell, President and CEO, Brant Community Healthcare System, Paris, Ontario
It can be a trying process for a new CEO to get to know the hospital its staff, but for Hornell it's like an undercover mission. The Brant Community CEO, who was appointed in April, threw on a sweater and headed to the Brantford General Hospital ED one Sunday night in August.

"When I walked in through the waiting room it was almost full with people of all ages and I had the feeling that some had been there for quite a while," he told the Brantford Expositor. As they waited, they looked up at each new person that arrived knowing that the list of patients waiting was about to grow even longer."

Hornell sat in the ED for several hours and observed staff and patients. He noticed that while physicians and nurses gave efficient care, many patients visiting the department did not need emergent care. He also paid close attention to staff's efforts to improve patient satisfaction.

"One thing that struck me right away was the worried look on the faces of relatives as our staff cared for their family members," says Hornell, adding: "This is natural. A nurse brought a Popsicle for a young child as other caregivers tended to the child's needs as anxious parents stood nearby. I witnessed a clerk who was handling five tasks at once and beside her stood a physician with yet another request."

Later revealing himself as the CEO, Hornell told staff that he was proud and impressed with their work. By getting into the trenches with employees, Hornell showed Brant Community staff and patients that their new CEO is committed to their welfare.

Phyllis Baum, CEO, Leesburg Regional (FL) Medical Center
Baum began working at Leesburg Regional as a nurse in 1986. Over the years, she has climbed the ladder of clinical and management positions to become the CEO for the 309-bed hospital in July 2009. Baum can actually trace her hospital roots back to when her grandparents contributed to the hospital's building fund. But that's not why she chose to stay with the organization all these years.

"It really is all about teamwork," she told The Daily Commercial in June. "One of the great things about working at Leesburg Regional is that we invest a lot of time and energy in developing our team. We have a mentoring environment where people are very focused on making those around them succeed."

Baum understood the importance of teamwork before she became CEO; At a time when the hospital was concerned about its 15%-15% turnover rate, she took it upon herself to discover why nurses were leaving.

"We really wanted to bring that down," she said, adding the turnover rate is now 5%. "I took the time to call everybody that left and ask, 'Why did you leave? How can we create an environment that would have made you want to stay?'"

Having started her career as one of the rank-and-file, this new CEO can relate to employees in a way that many chief executives cannot.

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4 comments on "5 Hospital CEOs Who Get It"


Todd (10/20/2010 at 4:11 PM)
pmckenney, I would suggest not accepting Medicare or Medicaid as a way reduce cost. By not accepting loss leader patients, the hospital can reduce what it charges private payers and INCREASE revenue! See what the Mayo Clinic is doing in Arizona.

pmckenney (10/15/2010 at 6:25 PM)
Commenter "Bluetooth" appears to have missed the entire point of this article. The CEO's were not trying to "attack the heart of the problem with the health care crisis" - and they deserve commendation for trying to address customer service and staff/patient satisfaction. As for healthcare costs, I'd appreciate Bluetooth's suggestions on how hospital CEO's might dramatically reduce charges for tests and services - while still making payroll and maintaining facilities. Hospitals must improve efficiency, increase safety and quality and become transparent about costs. However, until our payment systems are radically reformed, most hospitals are at the mercy of Medicare/Medicaid and large commercial insurers. Innovations such as ACO's hold promise, but must be designed well and piloted to see if they will work outside of highly-integrated systems such as Geisinger or Kaiser.

bluetooth (10/14/2010 at 6:28 PM)
Arranging the Chairs on the Deck of the Titanic. Yawn. No, these CEOs really DON'T get it, despite their babledom as reported here. Until the cost of care comes down, we aren't really attacking the heart of the problem with the healthcare crisis – IT'S THE COST OF CARE, STUPID!! We'll know they "get it" when we see dramatic reduction in fees, from bandages, to MRIs, to per-day charges.