A Clean Slate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

VRMC enters new era with new administration

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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Barry Keel is aware of Vaughan Regional Medical Center’s standing in the Selma community.

While his perception is limited to three weeks serving as the hospital’s new chief executive officer (CEO), Keel has been thoroughly briefed by hospital employees, physicians, board members and the everyday Selmian. And the message relayed to him is clear.

“There’s a lot of negative connotation about the high level of transition this hospital has had and by nature transition creates uncertainty,” said Keel, a Dadeville native and former CEO of Lawrence Medical Center in Moulton, Ala. “It creates diminished confidence. So one of my clear expectations and goals coming in is that we stabilize that level of confidence and trust and support from the grassroots up.”

“People really don’t care what we know until they know we care. We’ve got to establish the fact within our community that Vaughan Regional does care.”

That sense of caring, Keel says, starts with the hospital’s new administrative staff.

Vaughan’s owner, LifePoint Hospitals, Inc., began its search for a new CEO earlier this year following Steve Mahan’s resignation. The hospital was also in search of a chief operating officer (COO) to replace Todd Kennedy, who is now CEO of Medical Center East in Birmingham.

In July LifePoint officials introduced Allen Peters as Vaughan’s new COO. Prior to joining the Vaughan staff, Peters was former COO and vice president of patient care services for Murray-Calloway Hospital in Murray, Ky. Last month Vaughan welcomed Keel as CEO, replacing interim CEO Solon “Sonny” Boggus Jr.

Administrative appointments aren’t quite complete, Keel said. During the first week of October, the Vaughan family will expand to include new chief nursing officer (CNO) Cherie Sibley and chief financial officer (CFO) Mike Long.

“We will have a completely different leadership team here,” Keel said. Once we establish that leadership team we will begin to identify what the strongest needs are and where we need to focus a lot of attention and efforts.”

Keel added, “The pride has been in this community in years past that Selma itself has had excellent health care opportunities and excellent health care available to the residents of this community. I think to some extent that’s still present and I think to some extent we’ve lost that confidence of having exceptional health care available.”

According to feedback received from Vaughan staff, board members and citizens, the hospital “must be the health care provider of choice in this community that everybody wants,” Keel said.

“We haven’t hit the mark in every respect as an organization and I very much recognize that. It’s something we need to be open about and we need to be candid with. And clearly we’re not exactly where we want to be right now, but we know where we’re going.”

Keel said the construction of Vaughan’s $7.2 million Outpatient Procedure and Surgery Center – slated to open this spring – is a positive step in the right direction. “However, we’ve got to not wait to make improvements until next April or May. That needs to start and will start now.”

These improvements include the re-establishment of an orthopedic program, a service that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of injuries and diseases of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves – the muscoskeletal system. Vaughan currently offers 22 medical specialties.

“(An orthopedic program) is an integral part of any health care entity. It’s an integral part of what this community needs in medical services,” Keel said. “We’ve got other medical specialties we’re looking at based on community input.”

In addition to implementing additional medical services, Vaughan is closely monitoring the hospital’s inward and outward physical appearance, likening its facilities to Alabama’s metropolitan hospitals.

“There’s no reason whatsoever that people should feel like if they come here they’re going to get less care whether it’s the physical presentation or the patient care that’s being delivered,” Keel said.

But there’s one metropolitan hospital quality Vaughan does not want to mirror.

“When people go to a larger community to get health care they’re basically part of a big system – they’re just a number,” Keel said. “One of the biggest assets community hospitals has to offer is our friends, our families and our neighbors are the ones taking care of us. It’s the same level of care, but more personal care.”

“We have a great nucleus to build upon and our challenge is to add layers of services and add layers of trust and confidence and support to that nucleus we have in place. … To make it the level we all want it to be.”