Cambridge Memorial Hospital: Julia Dumanian, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

Julia Dumanian, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Memorial Hospital, has been at the helm of this 180-bed acute-care facility since early 2004. The 2007 winner of a Canadian award for healthcare leadership, Ms. Dumanian provides a candid account of restructuring a community hospital to meet a rapidly growing and aging population.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital is a 54-year-old facility located in one of Canada’s strongest economic areas where technology-based corporations dominate the marketplace. With a population of more than 130,000, its residents want and need their community hospital to reflect the technological advances available in healthcare today.

While looking to the future, however, Ms. Dumanian has had to overcome a past where the focus was a hospital that provided every element of healthcare. Today, Cambridge Memorial Hospital has set its sights on patient-focused acute care services and partnering with other healthcare providers in “building a healthier community”.

It’s been an uphill battle for this often-described “turnaround leader”, who arrived on the scene with fiscal and operational challenges, aging infrastructure and a mandate to restructure the corporation.

“Without a strong and sustainable financial base, there was no moving forward for us.” In eleven months, Ms. Dumanian and a new Board of Governors managed to turn a monstrous deficit into surplus and developed both a vision and mission for moving forward. “We right-sized the company and went through some major, global restructuring,” says Ms. Dumanian.

The organization was lacking in strong, internal leadership. However, revitalizing the internal stakeholders has created credibility in the community and industry. “Individuals do not prefer to work in an unstable and volatile organization. Removing that vulnerability and volatility was of primary concern. We focused on strong recruitment strategies that brought an active, passionate, and involved leadership within the company.”

A Functional Entity – Restructuring to Teaching

While Ms. Dumanian has spent her career working in leadership positions with different public and non-for-profit organizations, the past 10 years have been dedicated to restructuring organizations. “In Ontario, healthcare is publicly funded and we are the stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. We are accountable to the community but we need to be entrepreneurial in our approach and take risks.”

For Cambridge Memorial Hospital’s new business-minded CEO, that meant taking a 60-year-old building and investing almost $15 million to rebuild it and refurbish it with modern equipment. These upgrades, says Ms. Dumanian, gave the hospital the much-needed reputation of a stable employer and enhanced the recruitment efforts for new physicians, nurses and various technicians and technologists.

In building its reputation, Ms. Dumanian is proud of the fact that Cambridge Memorial Hospital has now aligned itself with a leading Canadian medical school and, provides its entire staff with a learning environment conducive to individual and professional development. Cambridge Memorial Hospital is also a prototype site for the Province of Ontario for the Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistance program in its Emergency Department.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The hospital realized that there were areas of strength where it had the best practice providers and there were areas of weakness where expertise had to be procured. “If your focus is quality actue care, all road maps lead you in the right direction,” says Ms. Dumanian. Initial restructuring had needed a top-down approach, but once the focus shifted to providing quality acute care, the management adopted a bottom-up and horizontal approach.

Values – the Fundamentals at CMH

The hospital, with 1,800 dedicated and skilled employees, goes strong on certain values. At CMH, every employee and service area – whether it is food services, housekeeping, nursing, or occupational therapy, is valued and respected. “We are all striving as part of the same corporation towards the same goal, and respect for what we bring in individually and collectively, is vital.” Innovation is encouraged, and as an entrepreneurial, public-sector organization, this philosophy is appreciated by employees and residents in the community. They see CMH as their hospital and they want it to be everything a community hospital can be.

In a community that over the next five years will grow to 150,000 residents, Cambridge Memorial Hospital is the third largest employer, with Toyota Motor Manufacturing leading the local workforce with more than 4,500 employees. Its responsibility as a corporate citizen in this diverse and strong business community is not lost on Ms. Dumanian, the current Chair of the local $2.6 million United Way Campaign. “Our role is to be leaders in healthcare but also leaders in building a healthier and sustainable community for our employees and their families.” As CEO, Ms. Dumanian is the face of the organization and multitasks in her role as a communicator with the board, with critical leaders, with the media, and with various community groups. With an excellent management team in place, Ms. Dumanian says she can now focus on her role as the hospital’s chief ambassador.

An Exciting Phase

A lot is happening at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. In late October, it celebrated the official groundbreaking on a $39.1-million expansion that begins immediately and is the first of what is expected to be a five-year project.

The first phase, scheduled for completion in 2010, sees the construction of new operating rooms, new birthing suites, a new mental health facility, expanded nuclear medicine, as well as new entrance, lobby and retail area. “And that’s just for starters,” says Dumanian, as the population growth expected in Cambridge will require a further injection of significant capital dollars. “The community has been a great support to the hospital and we will ensure that the best practices and state-of-the-art technologies give the required medical and economic returns to the community.”

So for CMH, it’s a new beginning and an exciting phase in healthcare delivery. “We took a nice community hospital and we made it into something bigger, better, and stronger.”

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