Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital: George Montgomery, CEO

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Located along Lake Michigan’s rural northern shores, Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital (SMH) is a 25-bed progressive critical access hospital with growing general and orthopedic surgery programs and a variety of medical specialty services, from cardiology and neurology to oncology and ophthalmology.  The hospital offers a full spectrum of care, such as a 24-hour physician staffed emergency room, walk-in clinic and physical, speech and occupational therapy. There is also a cardiac rehabilitation department and diagnostic services which include a full-service laboratory, x-ray, mammography, CT scans, MRI, and nuclear medicine.  Offsite, SMH offers home and hospice care,  a Rural Health Clinic staffed by family physicians, nurses and support staff  in addition to an assisted living residence, Woodland Meadows.

The perfect management match

CEO George Montgomery joined the hospital recently, at the start of 2009. A native of the Michigan peninsula, Montgomery worked in larger hospitals in VP roles, but sought to lead a smaller hospital and had been wanting to make the move to the upper peninsula of Michigan for several years. “SMH was the right size for what I wanted to do with my career after having served in senior VP roles.   I felt like I had done all the things that SMH now does, so it was a unique opportunity.” A unique opportunity especially since SMH was looking for a leader who had construction experience, having been in the planning process of building a replacement facility for over five years. With his extensive experience in local community hospital construction,  Montgomery was able to bring those skills to SMH and with the designs and location already set, the new CEO set to work making the designs a reality.

A new hospital on the horizon

“Our building is definitely in need of an update, being a 60 year-old facility, we don’t have air conditioning in patient rooms and the site just needs an upgrade,” explains Montgomery. That’s why he is hopeful to begin the construction process in 2010. The hospital is struggling to work through the funding process of the construction, looking to HUD as a lender. Plunkett Raysich Architects of Milwaukee supplied the designs for the new building and Gilbane Inc. was hired as the construct manager, who incidentally supplied a price guarantee for the project. Highlights from the new facility include a move to a more private room model, the expansion to a pair of operating rooms, from only one and the location shift, which will find the hospital about a mile and a half out of town, in a calm and healing environment. The hospital is also upgrading from a 4-slice CT scanner to a 32-slice model. Although this machine will be installed at the original hospital, it will be relocated to the modern facility once the new hospital is built.

Managing without pretense

Servicing about 10,000 residents of the area, SMH is also the largest employer in the area, with  over 200 employees. SMH also has the distinction of being the only hospital  in the county. To manage such an essential, but compact organization, Montgomery says he tries to keep things simple. “We have a fairly flat organization and not a lot of layers of management.” In fact, his leadership team consists of a  Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Nursing Officer, a Quality Risk Management Director and a Human Resources Director.   “I have several direct reports mostly from our post acute care service line. The Leadership Team Members manage the  supervisors of departments like Radiology, the Lab, Infection Control, Medical Records and so on..”

In addition, the hospital boasts four primary care physicians, four ER doctors, a radiologist and a general surgeon on staff, with only one full-time doctor of orthopedics not serving as an employee of SMH. “I don’t think I bring any unique management technique to SMH,” says Montgomery humbly, “but because my role has always been as a VP, breaking down barriers has always been my job. I see myself as a chief negotiator and really try to have an open-office policy.” Montgomery adds that it is essential for him to get out of the office and communicate directly with the staff. “I need to be visible with the employees and whenever I can, I eat lunch in the cafeteria and visit different departments and just try to stay really connected.”

SMH is in the process of implementing many of the safety and quality initiatives that larger hospitals are rolling out. “We are moving into electronic medical records, we have full-time ER doctors always onsite and are looking into purchasing a bar code system for prescriptions. We’ve been pretty much a leader in safety and quality in the area and although we might have two or three patients compared to another hospital servicing two or three hundred, we still work just as hard to give the patients the safest, highest quality care available.”

-by Jacqueline Rupp

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