Wellstar CEO calls adapting for the pandemic her bold move




, Wellstar CEO calls adapting for the pandemic her bold move

Through the pandemic, many well being system and hospital executives needed to make extraordinarily troublesome choices for his or her sufferers and their workers. Candice Saunders, president and CEO of Wellstar Well being System, one among Georgia’s largest methods, was no completely different. Her boldest transfer got here in figuring out the right way to assist 25,000 staff whereas sustaining her group’s monetary viability.

WHAT WAS YOUR RISKIEST DECISION? The pandemic has taken a big toll on the monetary standing of hospitals and well being methods throughout the nation—together with Wellstar. By Might, the not-for-profit system anticipated a $400 million to $600 million loss by means of 2020. Though the CARES Act offered welcome assist, the funding solely lined a portion of the monetary hole. 

Because of this, Wellstar needed to implement a resiliency plan that included a right away freeze on hiring, apart from important personnel; eliminating all contract labor, apart from important personnel; decreasing discretionary bought companies; pausing capital expenditures; eliminating extra time; eliminating variable compensation plans; asking govt director and above leaders to take a voluntary pay discount, and different price saving measures together with furloughs and decreased work hours on account of decreased affected person volumes. We additionally made the troublesome determination to freeze our defined-benefit pension plan and exchange it with a market aggressive defined-contribution plan. We supposed to make this transformation in 2021; nonetheless, the timeline was moved up because of the monetary challenges of COVID-19.

WHY WAS IT RISKY? Based mostly on suggestions from our workers, we knew we needed to make vital investments to look after our personal in the course of the pandemic. We expanded baby and elder care assist, provided free meals, offered pay continuation for impacted suppliers and group members, launched our 24/7 assist hotline to assist the psychological well being wants of our group members, and offered digital studying assist when youngsters didn’t return to varsities within the fall. This at a time when monetary stability was critically compromised by the circumstances. Additionally, though we factored in monetary modeling and enter from our leaders throughout the system, our resiliency plan held no ensures. 

For instance, we had no perception into ongoing impacts of the pandemic, when and if affected person volumes would return to regular ranges, how far more authorities funding we would obtain, and when group members who had been furloughed or flexed off would return primarily based on the resumption of companies and volumes. These are all dangers that Wellstar undertook in order that we might have the human and monetary assets to proceed caring for our communities.

WHAT THE OUTCOME? Our resiliency plan stabilized our system and most of the extra price financial savings measures, together with the return of furloughed and flexed group members, ended throughout the goal time-frame. 

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE FROM THOSE INVOLVED? We’re stronger and much more aware of the wants of our workforce and our sufferers. Distant work, ongoing well being and wellness assets, and telemedicine options have turn into part of the material of Wellstar. 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH EXECUTIVES IN SIMILAR POSITIONS? Hearken to the individuals you serve—suppliers, group members, sufferers and communities. That is the place you’ll get the best perception and steerage about the right way to navigate troublesome choices. If the danger you’re taking is knowledgeable by the individuals it’s going to influence, and also you all the time preserve their finest pursuits in thoughts, you’re higher geared up to drive optimistic outcomes.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE? My profession started on the bedside as a critical-care nurse, which has been a big affect in how I lead and collaborate. Caring for critically ailing sufferers taught me the significance of compassionate, high quality and personalised care for each individual, each time. That requires pausing and listening to what individuals want and wish, particularly of their most attempting instances. 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT? The best praise I can obtain from suppliers, group members and communities is that I’m listening to their wants and we’re offering compassionate, people-centric care. That’s what Wellstar is all about: PeopleCare.