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Madison County community officials talk about benefits of larger health network


Anderson Herald Bulletin

Staff Reporter

As St. John's Health System explores transferring ownership to one of three Indianapolis regional health care systems, other hospitals in the area talked about what that sort of partnership brings to a community.

Three Community Hospital Anderson executives related the changes that hospital went through after it joined Community Hospitals Indianapolis (CHI) Sept. 1, 1996.

"We can't speak about St. John's Health System or how it might be affected, you understand, but we can talk about what it meant for our patients and employees," said John Harris, chief financial officer. "Each hospital is different and each arrangement differs."

Harris was accompanied by Lisa Francis, executive director of Community's clinical services, and Steve Majors, administrative director of human resources.

Joining with a larger health care system allows the smaller hospital to offer patient care and technology that might not have been available. Employees also can broaden their experience by transferring to other hospitals in the system. Benefits for employees improved when Community joined a larger network, and patient volume has increased steadily, they said.

"Sometimes the proof is in the pudding," Harris said. "In the last five years, not a nickel has left this county. They have their cash, we have ours. Patient satisfaction has improved and employee turnover has dropped."

But of prime importance to Community Anderson and Mercy Hospital in Elwood, which joined St. Vincent as part of Central Indiana Health System, was retaining control and a personal touch while putting the community first.

Deeni Taylor, executive vice president and chief strategist for St. Vincent Hospitals, said he could only speak about the partnership with Mercy Hospital.

"At St. Vincent Mercy what we bring to the community is support and resources to make that ministry as world class in primary and secondary care as they can be. That's our commitment. We want to support and provide the services the community needs that are appropriate, and it is the medical staff and the community who says what is appropriate."

Add to that services a smaller hospital could not hope to supply and it's a win-win proposition, Taylor said Wednesday.

The personal touch at Community Anderson is unique because the chief executive officer is a physician, William C. VanNess II, M.D., who truly leads the hospital, the three Community officials said.

"We still have a complete full board of trustees as we had before, not an advisory board," Harris said. "Insofar as ownership being transferred, that did not occur. The title of the hospital remained the same. The only change was that we have CHI representation on the board."

Francis said that with patient services or day-to-day operations, Community medical staff determines how things are done.

"They make patient-care decisions in Anderson. That didn't change," Francis said. "At the same time, joining CHI allowed us primary access to tertiary care, technology and the opportunity to build relationships with specialists to benefit our patients with services that were not available here."

Employee satisfaction has continued to rise since 1996, Majors said. Two key questions on employee surveys asked if the employee would consider recommending Community Anderson as an employer to family and friends, and if the employee transferred to another hospital in the network, would they consider returning to Anderson? To both questions, 97 percent of the responding employees said yes.


Related Stories:
• St. John's ownership may transfer

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