SageWest CEO vows to restore trust in hospitalsAug 31, 2017 By Alejandra Silva and Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writers
Before SageWest Health Care's CEO Alan Daugherty arrived in Fremont County in April, the hospitals had three other CEOs since the beginning of 2016.
Daugherty promises, however, that he's not going anywhere soon.
"I'm home," he proclaimed emphatically in Lander on Wednesday. "I'm thankful to be here, and I intend to be here for a long time to come."
Daugherty hosts another public meeting at the Wind River Casino's Spring Mountain Room at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to address and take questions from a Riverton audience.
The CEO already faced some tough questioning this week in Fort Washakie and Lander, where retired SageWest ER doctor Dan Ratigan said that "the community, in my opinion, has lost confidence in the hospital."
That wasn't a characterization Daugherty was willing to push back on.
"I agree with you that this hospital has lost the trust of the community in a lot of ways," he said.
It's also a reputation that the Mississippi native stressed that he's trying to fix as soon as possible.
He said it's also a task that will be easier now that he has a full senior leadership team in place.
That team, he said, will provide structure "so that everyone knows what the boundaries are."
Dan Springer, the new chief operations officer arrived from Florida this week.
Daugherty said that part of Springer's duties will be to set up a "patient and family advisory board" by the end of the first quarter that will provide feedback to hospital administrators "in a completely transparent way."
Jennifer Hamilton was hired as chief financial officer last year after previously having been controller, and Vickie Bessey was promoted as chief nursing officer earlier this year.
Daugherty said he's determined to change the culture of SageWest so that employees can speak out about potential problems "without fear of retribution or loss of job."
Daugherty said the Joint Commission, an independent, non-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, visited the SageWest hospitals and reported zero findings in a July inspection.
"I'm so proud of that," he said, noting some issues discovered at the hospitals last year. "Zero findings is almost unheard of. ... They didn't find any in either Riverton or Lander."
In December, the Health Care Licensing and Survey Office through the Wyoming Depart-ment of Health identified problems at both facilities.
Since then, the state has approved a plan of correction that SageWest submitted, outlining the actions the hospitals would take to correct the issues.
"We've come a long way, quickly," Daugherty said.
The hospitals are now certified as both a chest pain center and a Level IV trauma center.
He said it's now his goal to be designated a "national quality hospital" by Duke University.
He noted that for the past two years SageWest has reported zero central line-associated bloodstream infections and zero cases in 2017 of Clostridium difficile infections, or C-diff, a healthcare-associated infection that can be caught by people getting medical care.
Patients part of care
When nurses change shifts, Daugherty said, they will now brief each other about patients through "bedside shift reporting," not in private.
"Patients need to be a part of their care," he said. "We haven't completely put that throughout all of our units, but we will."
Mike Jones, who chairs the local hospital board, said he's encouraging board members to have "frank and blunt" conversations.
"We might call B.S. if it feels like it's not coming across right," he said. "We don't want to be a rubber-stamp board."
The hospitals also have reduced their turnover by 50 percent in the last year, which Daugherty said is a sign that administrators are "making life on the physician as easy as we can make it."
The hospital still is working to open obstetrics services in Riverton as promised, Daugherty said.
In July 2016, all OB services were consolidated at the Lander hospital.
Daugherty said his team is recruiting the staff needed to offer pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care in Riverton.
"At this point we don't have those individuals," he said. "I will reopen OB in Riverton at a point in time when I know it will be a safe and quality service."
He wants to make sure the service is sustainable, he added, as it is hard to find "those good OB nurses" who are needed.
"I'm not going to open an OB unit if I feel like I'm going to have to turn around and close it again," he said.
Daugherty also discussed the relationships he's establishing with the health clinics on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and with local elders.
When he visited the Indian Health Services clinic in Fort Washakie, Daugherty said he was told he was the first hospital CEO to visit the site.
"I was pretty amazed by that," he said, noting he has visited all the major clinics in Fremont County and has plans to visit a few more.
He also has plans to work with the clinics and develop an action team with them to identify areas where SageWest can help them, and vice versa. Once those areas are identified, the teams can work together to collaboratively correct any issues.
"The important thing is that I'm interested," he added. "It's important that we get started quickly."
The clinics and SageWest can help each other with physical recruitment, Daugherty said, or improve information sharing processes.
"We could do a lot to improve that flow of information," he said. "
We can develop a better process that will also help us save time."
There's already partnering and cooperation between these facilities, but Daugherty said he's "trying to take that to a different level."
Daugherty also is encouraging all employees to play some role in the community, through civic clubs, appointed boards and other service.
SageWest employs 416 people and has 157 affiliated physicians. The hospital is continuing to recruit new doctors and other specialists as well, Daugherty said.
In 2016, SageWest made a $47.5 million payroll impact to Lander and Riverton. The hospital paid a combined $463,000 in taxes in 2016, including property and other taxes, local sales taxes and state sales taxes.
SageWest also spent roughly $6.5 million on uncompensated care and charity in 2016. The hospital had a payroll of $28.7 million last year.