By Kalea Hall
Since Steward Health Care came to town in May, hospital leaders say there have been changes made to fit a new model, influx of capital and new physicians signed into the network.
“There’s truly an emphasis on prevention and wellness and keeping patients in the right setting,” said Ron Bierman, president of Trumbull Memorial Hospital. “What we are doing with Steward is accessing capital that was sorely needed and upgrading technology and adding positions that give us a full range to give truly top-notch care.”
Boston-based Steward in May purchased eight Community Health System hospitals including ValleyCare Health System of Ohio with Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland.
Steward is the third owner for the local hospitals in eight years. Community Health purchased ValleyCare, formerly Forum Health, out of bankruptcy in 2010.
Steward is a private, physician-led, for-profit health-care provider with 36 hospitals in 10 states with 37,000 employees. Steward started in 2010.
“We started out as six bankrupt hospitals in Massachusetts in the most competitive health-care region in the country,” said Dr. Mark Girard, president of Steward. “We were able to turn around those six bankrupt hospitals, and we acquired four more.”
Steward turned around the hospitals through an innovative care model that kept care local. “We did it by developing technologically propriety models,” Girard said.
For example, Steward has a platform that connects the hospitals with doctors and others involved in a patient’s health.
“It prompts you to understand the totality of the patient and to take care of the total patient rather than the episode,” Girard said.
Other than new technology, Steward has brought 83 new physicians to Northside and 75 to Trumbull.
Building up the reputation of the hospitals depends on reaching out to the provider network, Girard said. He has personally gone to doctors in the area to tell them about the Steward model.
“The doctors are very excited to be a part of our model,” he said. “[We say] look, we are going to support your practices, we are going to integrate care, we will support you – [and] they are all in.”
For reputation, Girard also says you have to earn the trust of the community by partnering with it.
“We typically will do community assessments and a lot of community meetings,” he said.
Lastly, the hospitals have to provide great care.
“Our model of wellness [and] prevention works in any environment,” Girard said. “We are out in the community getting doctors interested and hospitals improved, and we will continue to evolve.”
Since May, when Steward took over the hospital system, 172 positions have been added with 91 at Trumbull. 64 at Northside and 17 at Hillside. The positions were added in administration, clerical, clinical, nursing and service.
The hospitals are still in search of employees with 51 positions open at Northside, 75 at Trumbull and 11 at Hillside.
The capital investments made to the local hospitals exceeded more than seven figures to address staffing, technology and infrastructure. For example, $983,000 was spent to support Northside’s Joint Commission review.
Laurie Hornberger, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents 210 nurses at Northside, has noticed changes at the hospital. A much needed change was the addition of nurses.
“We will have some other changes that will come along the way,” she said. “I think at this point we are still in the growing pains of learning and changing with the [new] policies and changes.”
Thomas Connelly, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2026, which represents 450 registered nurses at Northside, thinks Steward is moving in the right direction.
“They are trying to improve the whole system,” he said. “They are making progress in getting staff. We are seeing things change, and there are other things on the horizon that will change.”