I have had the honor of being at Willamette Valley Medical Center for nearly three months. I came to the hospital, as many interim leaders do, with a good idea of its operational successes and challenges, its services and quality metrics, but with less of an understanding of the real, living dynamics of its team, patients and community. These intangibles are difficult to get a sense of without the wisdom of tenure.
Over the course of my career, I’ve found these intangible elements of operations to be some of the most significant. For 30 years, I had the great honor of serving our country as a member of the U.S. Army, including serving as a medical platoon leader during Desert Storm; earning my wings as a MEDEVAC pilot; deploying multiple times to the Balkans and Iraq; and ultimately serving as the chief of staff for the Army’s largest geographically dispersed Regional Health Command – as a hospital executive for the last 14 years. Throughout my experience serving around the globe, the immeasurable values of teamwork, duty, and passion for helping other people are the components driving successful results, even against extraordinary odds.
I’ve observed and experienced a great deal – both inspiring and concerning – these last few months. Having led high-functioning teams through difficult circumstances, I can confidently say the potential of WVMC is great, as this is one of the most dedicated healthcare teams I’ve had the privilege of working alongside. They are constantly striving to improve how we deliver care, and they are always looking for ways to make our patients’ and families’ experiences with us better.
Hospital leadership actively works in tandem with all levels of the organization and actively engages clinical staff delivering care at the bedside to introduce new initiatives aimed at improving quality and patient safety. Quality care and patient safety are more than a set of clinical criteria – they are a vital component of WVMC’s culture that permeates every level of our organization. In fact, in the last year our team has put in place comprehensive safety programs aimed at reducing patient falls, decreasing medication errors, and increasing suicide prevention efforts, as well as implementing safety huddles and bedside shift reporting, to name a few things.
This team also has committed to being transparent with the public in profound ways. While 68% of Oregon hospitals declined to release all of their quality data to The LeapFrog Group , WVMC complied in full. This did not positively impact the facility’s grade, but it does reinforce a promise that this team will always be honest and open, and it underscores a hope that this community will be a partner in our efforts to constantly improve and hold us accountable for our progress.
This is a bustling hospital with facilities and services rarely found in a community this size, and I’ve been a part of extensive conversations about how we can continue to invest in our facilities and services to meet the changing needs of this community. This work is done with a sense of purpose, and the future in mind, to ensure we continue serving as a resource for the community. Beyond addressing local health needs and expanding access to care, these investments play a significant role in the social and economic vitality of the community, as well as making lasting, positive impacts on both the local and regional economies.
I’ve seen so much gratitude, encouragement and positive feedback from so many patients and families that I have been shocked by the level of negativity I have seen in the community. The reality of my experience inside WVMC and what I hear in the public are a stark contrast. No hospital is perfect or should not be criticized for its challenges, but from what I gather, some of this contrast is rooted in history. Some in rumor, and some in misunderstanding.
I encourage everyone to look at WVMC anew. If you all could see what I have been able to see these past few months, I believe the misconceptions about this committed community partner may change. I hope they do – because this team has this community’s best interests at heart. However, to succeed and truly advance healthcare here for the better, the hospital needs partners as committed as they are – partners willing to speak truthfully on concerns and celebrate their successes – all toward a common goal of making this community healthier.