South Haven Community Hospital: Joanne Urbanski, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

For more than 100 years the South Haven Community Hospital (SHCH) has been serving the communities of southwest Michigan. SHCH is an 82-bed, not-for-profit hospital that derives nearly 80% of its income from outpatient services.

Joanne Urbanski, President and CEO of SHCH since 2006, has been with the hospital for twenty-five years. She started as a staff nurse and worked her way through various positions, serving as Chief Operating Officer for ten years before moving to her current position. “The physicians and staff appreciate that the CEO has a clinical background,” says Urbanski.

Making Connections

South Haven is a rural community with a population of about 5,000 people. The hospital serves the cities of South Haven and Bangor and seven surrounding townships and it is the largest employer in the community. Urbanski is a strong proponent of communication and forming relationships. She wants the caregivers in her hospital to feel as connected and cared for as the patients. “Really, we are like neighbors taking care of neighbors,” says Urbanski of the hospital’s culture.

“We have been quite fortunate with regard to physician recruitment and retention,” she says. “We also have been very fortunate with regard to being shielded from the nursing shortage. The hospital employs most of its physicians and has added seven to the staff since January of 2008. In light of forecasted physician shortages, Urbanksi is extremely pleased with this accomplishment.

SHCH benefits from having a satellite campus of Lake Michigan College located in South Haven. They receive a number of students who rotate through the hospital during their training and certification. The college hosts a duel enrollment program for high school students, which gives the hospital an opportunity to expose the youth of the area to career opportunities in healthcare at an early age. “We are a huge supporter of [the college, main campus located in Benton Harbor] and, for the community, it’s been an excellent opportunity, as well,” Urbanski says.

Financial Opportunities in Spite of Decreased Reimbursement

The 8% reduction in Medicaid reimbursement was anticipated to impact SHCH budget by approximately an $800,000 loss in revenue.  Fortunately at this point the HMO Medicaid plans have not made this reduction only straight Medicaid.  We like so many other hospitals continue to see an increase in our charity care and bad debt.  We are constantly at opportunities to increase revenues and reduce expenses.

“We’ve made some progress identifying some key—niche—areas of opportunity,” says Urbanski. “We recognize we can not be everything to everyone, but what we do we want to do well and exceed our customers expectations. We’re looking into retail, cash-type services, and doing our best to wean ourselves from the reliance on Medicare and Medicaid as much as possible.”

In November of 2007, the hospital opened a 60,000 square foot wellness center.  This center has a medical model philosophy.  We work with the community members to improve their health through wellness.   The building also houses the hospital’s rehabilitation services, orthopedic and occupational medicine services. “We had projected that by year three we would reach 2,200 members and we actually reached that goal at about month sixteen. There has been huge community support and [the wellness center has been] very well received.”

The bottom line is that SHCH continues to serve any and all who walk through the door, regardless of the ability to pay. The hospital is committed to maintaining that role in their community.

High Quality Rural

One struggle common to small, rural hospitals is the perception that patients might find better care elsewhere, in larger cities or at least more heavily populated areas where resources and technology might be greater.

“It’s a matter of getting folks in the door,” says Urbanski. “We’re always thinking of ways to entice individuals. We are a high touch, high people kind of organization. We have the latest technology, as well. Sometimes you have to fight that stigma, that idea that being small and rural means you are not as well equipped.”

The organization is in the process of selecting new information technology systems for both the hospital and the physician practice side of its business. They are also at work on implementing an electronic health record.

SHCH opened a women’s center in 2005 and have dedicated themselves to the specific needs of women, including mammography, ultra-sound, and bone-density testing. The birthing center was renovated in 2008. SHCH has three OB/GYNs and two nurse midwives who provide the women’s services as well as water births.  Last spring, the hospital was a finalist for the governor’s award. They were the only hospital in Michigan nominated for this honor.

The Right Care, Right Here

It is SHCH’s mission to be the leader in the improvement of healthcare in their community. “We have continued to be successful in meeting our patient satisfaction and our budgetary goals.”

“We’ve are on a journey of creating a culture of excellence. It’s really about aligning behaviors and goals and having a common vision. We are working as a team and well on our way.

-by T.M. Simmons

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