Case seeks ‘destination hospital’

Published 12:54 am Sunday, September 11, 2011

Harvey Case (second from left), new president of Beaufort Hospital, and some of the members of his senior management team (from left), Richard Reif, Lynne Fisher and Susan Gerard, work on strategy for the hospital for the coming year. (WDN Photo/Betty Mitchell Gray)

When Harvey Case was leading Duplin General Hospital, he kept a sheet of paper with “Harvey’s Goals” typed on it to remind him and all the hospital’s employees of what was important — patient and customer satisfaction, community outreach, keeping an open mind and, lastly, fun.

In the days to come, he hopes to instill those same goals at Beaufort Hospital as he and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina assume management of Washington’s hospital and its affiliated medical practices.

“We want to make this a destination hospital,” Case said. “So that when people in our community think about health care, they think about us first.”

While the financial struggles of Beaufort Regional Health System, the former umbrella organization for the local health system, have been well-documented over the past two years, the local health system has strengths on which UHS can build over the coming months, Case said.

“The folks here have done a great job. This hospital and the structure we have here is something we’d like to see in other hospitals,” Case said.

He cited the range of specialty medical practices and the range of mental-health services available locally as two of those strengths.

Statistics show that in recent years, many Beaufort County residents bypassed the Washington hospital in favor of larger hospitals nearby, even though the care they needed might have been available locally.

Case said part of his mission in the coming months is to reduce that trend by focusing on quality of care and building confidence in the community.

To do that, Case said, he and other Beaufort Hospital employees must identify the local hospital’s strengths and let the community know that “for these things, we are as good or as better as a larger hospital.”

“You can do a thousand things, but if you’re not providing quality care, nothing else matters,” he said.

While not directly involved in the negotiations among UHS, Beaufort County and BRHS, Case has been at work in the background on issues affecting Beaufort Hospital since July. Case said that while he “didn’t seek out the assignment,” he is “very excited about this opportunity.”

In recent weeks, he assembled a senior management team and started working with it develop strategic goals for the coming year that focus on creating a good working environment, quality care, community service, efficient business operations and improving access to care.

One of the first projects Case will oversee is the introduction of HealthSpan, an electronic medical-records system used by UHS hospitals that allows doctors throughout the system to access a patient’s medical records, and, when fully implemented, allow patients to access their records from their homes.

A $5 million to $6 million project, Case hopes to have the system up and running within 12 to 18 months.

Another project on Case’s to-do list is improving the emergency department at Beaufort Hospital.

Surveys in recent months have shown improvement in patient satisfaction in the care they have received in the emergency department. But it has historically received, and continues to receive, the lowest patient-satisfaction scores of any of the local hospital’s services.

In the coming weeks, Case will spearhead plans to renovate and expand the department in an effort to change that trend.

“We need to decide how to renovate and expand that area to improve patient flow,” he said. “Because the emergency department is the access to care for so many people in this community.”

In the next 30 days, Case and others at UHS will work to develop a priority list for capital improvements at Beaufort Hospital.

While recent renovations in the hospital’s operating rooms, outpatient-surgery units and entrance paint the picture of an up-to-date medical facility, the building’s elevator and patient rooms paint another one.

Case said the perception among patients and visitors of the hospital as “dingy and dark” will not instill confidence in the quality of care.

Although there are significant hurdles in implementing more expensive construction projects — including regulatory requirements that must be met — UHS will begin that process, he said.

As for the final item on the list of “Harvey’s Goals” —a having fun — Case said it’s important for the hospital’s employees to enjoy their work and experience the satisfaction of a job performed well.

“We need to enjoy our work but keep getting better,” he said. “That way, we can celebrate when we do well.”