Thursday, July 7, 2011

My very best for the future

At 12:01 this morning, Community General Hospital became Upstate University Hospital at Community General.

Dr. John McCabe, the CEO of Upstate University Hospital, and I completed Upstate's acquisition of Community yesterday afternoon.

Our photo was taken in the New York City offices of Hogan Lovells, the law firm that represented Upstate in the transaction.

Community General was represented by Bond Schoeneck & King.

The files in the foreground are a fraction of the documentation we needed to close the deal. Dr. McCabe and I have been signing thousands of documents since last week in order to accomplish the closing.

That represents the mechanics of the deal. The substance of the combination -- the benefits for the community -- will now follow.

A front page story in today's Post-Standard recaps the history of Community General Hospital as we begin this next chapter of service as part of Upstate. Community's roots go back to Syracuse General Hospital, located on Castle Street in Syracuse. Our progress is shown graphically in the logotypes, pictured below.

This is my final posting for More than Medicine. This began as a weekly letter to employees in the fall of 2002, when I became Community's President & CEO. That weekly letter morphed into More than Medicine in 2006.

Effective today, I am no longer CEO. I have accepted a Senior Vice President position at Upstate, and I will be working in the administrative offices at the main hospital downtown.

Meredith Price is Upstate's new Chief Administrative Officer at the Community General campus. She has already been at work here for several months, leading the transition planning with Community's senior management group.

At the final annual meeting June 15, I told the Board of Directors

". . . the fact of Upstate’s acquisition does not, by itself, make this a successful deal. This deal is going to take hard work. We will have to execute for Meredith Price and for Dr. McCabe. . . .I have asked my managers to give their loyalty and support to Meredith in this important effort," and I am pleased to say that they have done so.

Thank you, Drs. David Smith and John McCabe, and congratulations. To Meredith Price and her team, I wish you the very best for the future.

To CGH employees, volunteers, physicians, and board members: it has been a privilege and an honor to work with you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Today's milestone for the community

At 4:48 p.m. today, Dr. John McCabe and I signed the final documents, completing the sale of Community General Hospital to SUNY Upstate Medical University, effective 12:01 a.m. tomorrow.

This is a milestone for health care in Central New York. This allows our hospital to continue its service to the community under the aegis of Upstate. This allows the physicians on the medical staff to continue serving their patients at the Community General campus. This keeps most employees in jobs and brings the significant potential of a larger hospital and the academic world.

This helps our hospital prepare for the many changes coming from health care reform, as well as from the challenging demographics and economy.

Achieving this milestone has taken the hard and conscientious work of many, including and especially Dr. David Smith, University's President, Dr. John McCabe, University Hospital's President, and their highly capable staffs.

Community General's board of directors has consistently kept in mind the best interests of patients and the community-at-large, as well as the hospital's stakeholders.

My thanks to Steve Infanti, our board chair, for the past nine years of his leadership (and for many more years, before that). I thank John Hession, Chet Amond, Jim Getman, and all our board members, including the physicians whose participation has been invaluable.

The State Health Department worked diligently to review Upstate's certificate of need application, including the detailed due diligence that was completed within the Department's otherwise demanding agenda from across the state. In fact, all divisions of government, including the Governor's staff, the State University of New York, the Department of Budget, the Attorney General, and the State Controller worked carefully and in a focused way to approve the complex transaction.

I would like to acknowledge the many elected officials who supported the Upstate-community combination, and I specifically reference State Senator John DeFrancisco, whose work was personal and unflagging on behalf of the acquisition. County Executive Joanie Mahoney also was very helpful.

Excellus, the area's largest health insurer, has worked for this moment for more than a dozen years by sponsoring community studies and by encouraging hospitals such as Community General to work toward a well-planned consolidation. My special thanks goes to David Klein, Chairman of the Lifetime Healthcare Companies (the parent company of Excellus) and to Chris Booth, CEO of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield of CNY.

I salute Community's employees who, despite worry, uncertainty, and distractions, always understood our hospital's unique role in the community and the importance of our continued caring. Finally, Community's management team deserves laurels for staying the course, for working hard in support of the combination, and for keeping the focus on patient services and quality throughout the complex process.

As I wrote recently to the board, there have been many instances of heroism and stamina in bringing the Upstate-Community combination to fruition. Too many, in fact, to recount, and so many, I do not know all of them.

In recent weeks many have expressed appreciation to me for Upstate's support and for the honorable way Upstate has worked with Community General and its employees. Such expressions have meant a lot to me, especially the kind words from individual employees and from patients and families.

To all who made this possible, thank you and congratulations. My best wishes to you, to Upstate, and to the community that is the ultimate beneficiary of this milestone.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Seize this very minute"

Sometime after he succeeded John L. Brown, the founding President & CEO of Community General Hospital, Jerry Harris presented each of his vice presidents with a poem, displayed in small plastic stand for desk or book shelf.

Jerry became President & CEO in 1982, and it was probably several years later when he handed out the short verse by Johann van Goethe. Here is a translation by John Anster:

Lose this day loitering - 'twill be the same story
To-morrow - and the next more dilatory;
Each indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o'er lost days,
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute -
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated -
Begin it, and then the work will be completed!
Jerry Harris was a key figure in my career. He promoted me to vice president and helped me return to college for an MBA degree. He also freely shared his hospital stories and his sayings about management. Among them was this challenge: "Sooner or later, somebody's gotta do the work!" That was an echo of Goethe's "Lose this day" eloquence.

One of the most impressive things about the leadership of SUNY Upstate Medical University is its action-oriented management team. Dr. David Smith, University President, and Dr. John McCabe, Hospital President, look for and expect results.

At a senior management retreat last fall, Dr. Smith passed out coffee mugs to his Upstate leadership team. "Get-r-done!" the cups read, referring to Upstate's acquisition of Community General Hospital.

To this day, I display in my office the Goethe poem Jerry Harris gave me. It is good to know that Community's work ethic will fit comfortably with Upstate's bias toward action.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Well done!

I’d like to acknowledge with gratitude the work of the Community General Hospital Employee Community Service Fund, which has assisted members of the Community family since 1993.

With Community’s transition to Upstate University Hospital, the CGH Employee Fund completes its exemplary, quiet service.

I say “quiet,” but the Fund could actually be quite noisy once each year during the campaign to aid the United Way of Central New York and the Community General Foundation -- and to resupply its own coffers for the benefit the Community General family members.

Once the annual United Way campaign was finished, the Fund board labored in relative obscurity, inconspicuously providing temporary financial assistance to employees and other “family members” for a “sudden, unplanned economic hardship due to accident, loss or disaster” (in the words of the Fund).

With the transition of Community's employees to Upstate (and to Upstate’s contract services), payroll deductions come to an end, and the Employee Fund completes its work and its lifespan.

Although employee pledges end as of mid-year, Fund directors voted recently to complete payment to the United Way of Fund's full pledge for 2011. Any amount remaining in the Fund goes to the Community General Foundation, which will continue as a fund raising corporation after the Upstate acquisition is completed.

During its existence, the Fund provided some $150,000 to assist CGH family members through hard times.

In addition, United Way contributions from the Employee Fund have been more than $400,000 over that period.

To all who supported the Fund and to the directors who made it work, congratulations and thank you.

Job well done!