Across America today, dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of small community hospitals are struggling to survive.
Poor leadership, governance, medical staff, declining reimbursement and tougher regulatory requirements are the most frequently cited reasons for this decline. When the only hospital in town closes, there are consequences – limited access to care, loss of jobs and future economic development. In the case of the latter, new businesses and young families with children, for example, do not want to live in a town where the nearest hospital is 20 to 40 miles away.
If there is sufficient demand and adequate medical staff resources, there are six keys to keeping a hospital open:
- Community support – If the community is not willing to support the hospital by using the medical staff and the local facility, and if they are not willing to provide tax support to offset inevitable losses, then there is little, if any, hope for survival.
- CEO servant leader, not an insecure administrator – Harsh, but true. These small community hospitals require a leader who is focused on the mission, the patients, the physicians, the employees and the community, someone who understands that it is about preserving this important community asset, not advancing their own ego-centered career, or using a style of management that “proves” they are the boss. The CEO’s daily mission must include serving as the chief trust officer with the community, the physicians, employees and the community at large.
- A board with no political agendas – A board whose singular focus is on the success of the hospital, and not some political or personal agenda that should be checked at the door. They must be prepared to fight for the hospital. Poor governance and misguided leadership, more often than not, are leading causes for the type of crisis that will force a shutdown.
- A Committed medical staff – A medical staff that truly cares about their patients, the hospital and the community.
If the medical staff is not passionately on the same page regarding mission, vision and values, with the CEO and board, that could be a deal killer.
- Commitment to quality of care, safety and innovation – Hospitals with CEOs and/or board members who proudly wear the title, Vice President of This Is the Way It Has Always Been are certain to doom the enterprise. Healthcare reform will require changes in service delivery, which, in turn, will require a team effort.