Taylor Regional Hospital: Jane Wheatley, CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

Community ownership brings with it a level of responsibility beyond the day-to-day matters faced by regional medical facilities. Not that caring for the sick and injured that live in the eight counties located in Central Kentucky doesn’t require significant effort – it just adds a greater sense of urgency when the boss is also a neighbor.

That’s the situation at Taylor Regional Hospital, a 90-bed non-profit healthcare provider located in Campbellsville, Ky., where CEO Jane Wheatley has witnessed 31 years of evolution in hospital operations from her start in the finance department to her position as CFO and now, for more than six years, as the facility’s chief executive. Receiving support in the form of tax dollars from Taylor County property owners, Wheatley feels a responsibility to partner with the community we serve. The organization recognizes that support in a number of ways, most notably with a financial payback.

“The county collects a hospital tax along with property taxes,” she said. “In turn, the county passes those funds along to the hospital on an annual basis. So, if you pay hospital tax on your property tax bill we give that back to you as a credit if you use our facility.”

Taylor Regional also finds ways to give back to the community with programs and services above and beyond the scope of providing standard medical care. During a recent hospital-sponsored community fair, more than 400 people took advantage of a low-cost opportunity to have complete blood work done. For $12, blood was drawn and tested for such things as cholesterol levels and diabetes.

“To have that same thing done in a doctor’s office would have cost $150,” Wheatley said.

Most recently, Taylor Regional built a walking track behind the hospital for the community to use. Other community outreach programs include free classes for members of the public interested in smoking cessation, diabetes management and weight-loss.

“Anything that we can give back to the community free of charge we will do,” she said.

Economic Contribution

First and foremost, Taylor Regional, a Level-III trauma center, gives back to the community by serving an estimated 120,000 residents. The hospital also makes an economic contribution by employing about 650 people and 11 physicians from the area, making it Taylor County’s second-largest employer.

“We pump a lot of money back into the local economy in the form of wages and salaries,” Wheatley said. “We also try to buy products and services locally, where appropriate. These are just other ways the hospital gives back to the community.”

Economic Challenges

Wheatley noted that, with the current economic status, a number of patients who arrive at Taylor Regional are either underinsured or without health insurance. That situation brings with it a number of factors for hospital administrators to handle.

“We’re seeing more and more people who have either lost their jobs or can’t afford to pay for health insurance,” she said. “They don’t have the means to pay their bill. So, they’re coming to the hospital and, since we are not-for-profit, we take care of everybody who comes, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Wheatley added that hospital personnel are seeing patients who are much sicker today than in previous years, which she believes is another result of the economy.

“People are not undergoing routine screenings like they used to, so when they do come to the hospital sometimes they are much sicker than they would have been if they had practiced some preventive medicine,” she said.

Maintaining a staff of qualified physicians to treat this increase in sick patients presents yet another challenge for Wheatley. She explained that physicians just out of school today are looking to balance their need for income with their desire to spend time with family. That work/life balance wasn’t always a factor. In order to facilitate new physicians’ needs, Taylor Regional started a hospitalist program that allows physicians the time away from work that they desire.

“Looking to the future, I think it’s going to be something that most hospitals are going to have to consider,” she said. “To keep young physicians coming to the community you’re going to have to offer them allowances for their lifestyle with set hours,” she said. “They’re not going to be on call like some of the older physicians have been.”

Operational and Management Standards

When it comes to hospital business operations, Taylor Regional follows the five Pillars of the StuderGroup, a health care consulting firm that introduces evidence-based tools and processes for organizations to use to create operational standards. The Pillars include service, quality, financial, people and growth.

“We believe that it’s important to stay loyal to the people and the community,” Wheatley said. “If you follow all the pillars together you will do well.”

The CEO and her management staff also believe in an open-door policy. Everyone has access to senior managers through e-mail or via telephone. Staff members can also talk to managers as they conduct rounds throughout the hospital.

“I believe that people need to be out and on the floor and be seen, not only during the day but at night and on weekends,” Wheatley said. “If you will practice that you have a much happier workforce and, when you have a much happier workforce you have happier patients and their families.”

Capital Expenditures

In anticipation of mandated electronic record keeping, Taylor Regional is in the second stage of a four-stage paperless system implementation. The installation is going well, Wheatley said, with some resistance at first but everyone is on board with the project at this point.

“Of course, we had the usual resistance but now I would say if you went back and tried to take it away from people we would have resistance the other way,” she said.

On the bricks and mortar side, the hospital is also looking to build a new $17 million surgery center at the existing facility’s location. All in- and out-patient surgeries will be performed in this new, state-of-the-art facility.

Giving Back

With all of its features, including a desire to offer the public free services they might not take advantage of otherwise, Taylor Regional personnel work hard to make sure its owners, the public, are taken care of.

“We do what we can to let the public know that we’re a part of this community and we will do whatever we can to give back because they give so much to us,” Wheatley said.

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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