Eastern Long Island Hospital: Paul J. Connor, III, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on March 30, 2011

A community hospital located in a quiet neighborhood where about 28% of the population is age 65 and older aren’t the demographics you would expect to hear when describing a medical facility located on Long Island. However, those facts accurately describe Eastern Long Island Hospital (ELIH), an 85-bed, full-service medical facility located in Greenport, N.Y. that serves both North Fork and Shelter Island.

President and CEO Paul J. Connor, III, a 10-year veteran of ELIH, explained that this close-knit community contains the oldest population per capita in the state of New York.

“The patients who utilize the medical-surgical component of our hospital are typically older and thus, our services are more oriented toward the geriatric population,” he said. “However, we also serve the general population.”

Eastern Long Island Hospital is comprised of two facilities. One entity is an acute care hospital that offers adult medical-surgical services along with an emergency room, a full-service operating room, laboratory, and an imaging department. The other entity on site is the behavioral health facility, where ELIH operates an 18-bed acute psychiatric unit, an addiction service component that includes a 10-bed detoxification in-patient program, and a 20-bed sub-acute 28-day program. The organization also operates a large outpatient program about 20-miles away in Riverhead, N.Y.

Community Culture

Connor describes the culture at ELIH as the type patients would expect from a rural hospital. About 80% of the hospital’s employees live in a 15-20 mile radius of the facility. In addition many staff members grew up in the community. He said this environment leads to a greater desire to provide quality care to patients, as they are all members of the same community.

“Our employees are also community members and, as members of the community, they understand the value of their hospital,” he said. “They take great pride and propriety in working at the hospital because after all, they’re taking good care of their friends, their neighbors and their relatives.”

Also, because Connor lives and works in the community, he has more contact with the people served by the hospital.

“As good as my public relations department is, I become the face of the hospital much more so than a CEO who doesn’t reside in the community in which his hospital is located,” he said.

This community atmosphere has led to a culture of caring, which manifests in patient satisfaction scores. Connor refers to Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAPS) and Health.org patient surveys that rank ELIH among the top hospitals in the state of New York.

“That culture of caring resonates with our patients.  We meet their expectations, they received good care and are satisfied,” he said.

Quality is measured by meeting or exceeding the national standard of care, or core measures.  Data on these ‘core measures’ is collected and analyzed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMC), a system supported by the Joint Commission.  ELIH, the smallest hospital on Long Island,   ranked in the top 10% nationally the first year of the reporting system.  ELIH continues to score above State and consistent with National averages delivering excellence in patient care.

Nursing Recruitment Program

One threat to ELIH’s community culture has been the national nursing shortage. While relying on an agency can help fill open positions, it can be problematic.

“Our community culture, the thing that distinguishes us from other hospitals, would begin to erode,” Connor said.

To fulfill staff needs and maintain the hospital’s culture, nursing director and vice president of patient care services, Pat Piseisa, worked with other local hospitals as well as the local community college to create a separate registered nurse track that the hospitals finance with scholarships for qualified local residents. Graduating nurses commit two years to ELIH, filling open positions, particularly due to retirements.

“With this program, we found a way to maintain a local workforce that lives and works in this community,” he said.

Capital Expenditures

Renovation projects that have completed over the past five to six years in every patient care area in the hospital have gone full circle, Connor said. Expansion projects have taken the place of renovations, particularly in the imaging department. With a $2 million gift from the Kanas Family Foundation, ELIH was able to completely renovate and expand the department. The project included the addition of a Siemens Symphony 1.5 Tesla MRI unit, as well as a GE 16-slice CT scanner and digital mammography.

With these advancements, the hospital also incorporated a PACS system that digitally communicates these new images throughout the hospital and network of physicians who need access to those images.

“Not only is our imaging area aesthetically pleasing but it is highly functional,” he said.

IT Developments

Already nursing documentation, and test results are incorporated into an electronic medical records system, which is encrypted and can be accessed by the medical staff from any secure internet portal. The Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) is the final piece of the electronic record to be put in place. Connor said the CPOE will allow physicians to enter orders electronically rather than writing them on an order sheet.

“We expect to be able to take a look at a CPOE program that our IT provider has rolled out to see if it’s something we want to pursue,” he said.

In 2008, the hospital installed an electronic medication administration system that uses barcode and wireless technology to make sure nurses give the right medication to the right patient at the right time and in the right dosage. They use a barcode wand to scan the patient’s wristband and with that, the patient’s medication information is populated into his or her medication record. The process is designed to reduce the potential for errors.

“The nurses have really embraced this system,” he said. “And the patients like this as well. They feel it provides an extra measure of safety.”

Management Successes

Connor’s management style is to have direct contact with as many people as possible and allow his management staff enough freedom to do their jobs. As the CEO of a small hospital, he plays a number of roles, one of which involves communications.

“Maintaining a dialogue with the community, having a good relationship with the medical staff and the board and of course, surrounding yourself with the best possible managers you can are vital steps to being successful,” he said. “I foster communication and as much independence as I can, yet everybody knows they are part of a team.”

Marketing Campaign

A marketing campaign called “We Care” was developed a few years ago to highlight the caring attitude of ELIH’s employees. One result of that campaign is the hospital’s tagline: “We put the care back in healthcare.”

“The report card results highlight how well the patient care team performs,” Connor said. “The campaign showcases the employees and quotes patients.  It all reinforces our culture of care and quality.”

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Scott Bradely April 1, 2011 at 7:04 am

The east end community is fortunate to have a visionary and committed CEO that has understood the needs of the community and has made changes over the past five years to serve the needs of the eastern long island.

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