Peconic Bay Medical Center: Andrew Mitchell, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on November 1, 2010

“Peconic Bay Medical Center is committed to improving the health of our communities by providing quality, comprehensive and compassionate care.” Not an uncommon mission statement. Many hospitals promote the same values and compassion to the communities they serve. But for Peconic Bay Medical Center, unwavering adherence to this mission statement has sustained the facility and completely turned its fortunes around.

Located in Riverhead, NY — the gateway to the East End of Long Island, the hospital’s primary service area has roughly 1.4 million people. During the past 10 years, under the direction of President and CEO Andrew Mitchell, FACHE, the hospital has experienced a total transformation, in looks, quality and service.

From community avoidance to community construction

“When I came here in 2001, the institution was financially troubled and had a high avoidance rate in the community,” Mitchell said. “We needed to transform that, and the first step was empowering everyone at all levels of the organization to be part of the change.”

“The Emergency Center, which was “falling apart,” needed hundreds of thousands of dollars of work to be considered a reasonable clinical facility,” Mitchell said. Funds that the hospital did not have. Rather than be defeated, the hospital staff and community at large took it upon themselves to rebuild the Emergency Center – a sort of Habitat for Humanity project. The local school system, fire department, Coast Guard, police and other community members participated in a four-day gutting and rebuilding of the Emergency Center. The project was done completely with volunteer labor and mostly donated materials.

“This project was the biggest and most important change for us because it allowed everyone to recognize that even though we were  financially challenged, we had incredibly rich resources,” he said.

From that stimulus, the hospital continued its growth, staying committed to the community that inspired the beginning of this transformation. With an increasing population, especially of individuals over age 65, the hospital needed to expand to become a major medical center to properly serve the community’s evolving needs.

In 2005, Peconic Bay established a foundation to handle the philanthropic and fund-raising aspects of the hospital’s mission. The foundation raised enough funds to finance a $35 million renovation and expansion project. Within three years, the facility has become one of the most honored hospitals on Long Island.

Continued transformation and expansion

In the Spring of 2009, Peconic Bay opened the Kanas Center for Advanced Surgery — a state-of-the-art surgical  pavilion featuring the latest in patient safety technology.  Six months later, the hospital was given a 5-star rating — the highest available — in general surgery by HealthGrades, the leading independent healthcare ratings organization in the nation.  And just one year later — in the Spring of 2010 — Peconic Bay acquired the da Vinci Surgical System, a breakthrough surgical technology offering an advanced category of minimally invasive surgery.

A member of the East End Health Alliance, which also includes Eastern Long Island Hospital and Southampton Hospital, Peconic Bay is also affiliated with Stony Brook University Hospital and Stony Brook University School of Medicine.  . In 2010, Peconic Bay began its first family practice residency and hopes to expand to a surgical residency program, partnering with the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. This is the beginning of an evolution toward becoming a teaching hospital as well.

Looking ahead, Mitchell says the future will be organized around three initiatives: upgrading the Emergency Center to a Level 2 trauma center, continuing technological advances, and providing more skilled nursing, rehabilitation, and home health services.

The Emergency Center expansion was planned for in the original design of the project. Peconic Bay already has a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility as well as a home health agency. With the growing senior community, expanding residential services to include assisted living, senior housing with a medical model component and possibly a life-care community is necessary to continue meeting the residents’ needs.

“Residential services with a medical service component is needed in our community and consistent with the mission of the medical center,” Mitchell said. He said some components of the hospital’s long-term plan can begin next year, while the life-care community is about two years away.

Leading the transformation

Peconic Bay Medical Center has doubled in size over the last three years and employs more than 1,200 people, making it one of the largest non-municipal employers in the region. The hospital has doubled its revenue base and doubled its admission base in the past 10 years since Mitchell has been President and CEO.

Mitchell describes his style as “participatory management.” He attributes the facility’s success to looking at the needs of the community and involving all stakeholders.

“The bottom line is with everyone working together, organizations can grow quickly. My role is to make sure stakeholders are involved and help everyone stay focused on the true vision of the organization,” Mitchell said. The leadership needs to recognize that he or she has invaluable resources at the board level, physician level, staff level and the community at large. “Everything we have done here has been based upon community and executed properly, and we’ve been very successful in going through a total institution transformation. It’s amazing what an institution can accomplish under very difficult circumstances.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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