Earlier this year, the doctors at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center became so concerned that the hospital’s administrators had sidelined them from major decisions that they brought their concerns directly to the board, warning that their morale had reached an “all-time low.”
Now, as a new leader begins his tenure at the Bangor hospital, he said one of his main goals is to diligently listen to what its doctors, nurses and other medical staff have to say.
“Their concerns are valid,” Rand O’Leary, the new president of EMMC, said during an interview in his office on Friday. “They’re about patient care. They’re about wanting to improve care, to provide more quality care, so a big part of what I do is making sure I have lots of opportunities to hear from the medical staff. One of my biggest roles is really supporting them and helping them to overcome whatever barriers there are, artificial or otherwise, to improving the quality of care.
O’Leary, who is also a senior vice president at EMMC’s parent group, Northern Light Health, said he is still “doing a lot of learning” since starting his job in Bangor earlier this month.
“In my first two weeks, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the organization and the services it offers,” he said. “I really want to understand the organization and the people and the culture here. I want to hear about the good work being done.”
O’Leary previously worked as an administrator of hospitals in Michigan and Oregon. He voluntarily left his previous job as the CEO of PeaceHealth Oregon — a Catholic health system with four hospitals — in April 2018, and he worked in a consulting role until he took the Bangor job. He replaced Timothy Dentry, the chief operating officer of Northern Light Health who served as EMMC’s interim president after Donna Russell-Cook stepped down from the position in April.
Besides working to listen to the staff of EMMC, O’Leary also vowed to keep improving the quality of the hospital’s services given its low scores from two prominent rating programs, but he said that the hospital already offers strong care that has not been reflected in the scores, which are largely based on data from last year.
This fall, EMMC was the only Maine hospital to receive a C on the Leapfrog Group’s safety ratings; the others that were evaluated all received As or Bs. It is also one of the only Maine hospitals to receive two out of five stars — the lowest rating in the state — from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which scores hospitals on a range of quality and performance measures.
“I would say that the work we’re doing here today that I’ve seen, compared to the data being measured in those scorecards, it’s night and day,” O’Leary said. “I know we’re on the right path. I know those score cards are going to improve. At the same time, the bar continues to go up on quality and safety around the country.”
In addition to that work, O’Leary said he would like to explore how EMMC can support the work that other organizations are doing to address more entrenched social problems such as homelessness and hunger that can affect the health of people in the Bangor region.