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Calming Influence

Gustavo “Gus” Valdespino became president and CEO of Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys during a shaky time. Before Valdespino arrived in September 2009, the independent non-profit community hospital had been under interim leadership for several months following the loss of its former CEO Albert Greene, who died of cancer in April. As the new CEO, Valdespino has focused his efforts on targeting services toward community needs, overseeing the opening of the hospital’s new Amputation Prevention Center – one of the few of its kind in the nation – and helping work toward completion of a major electronic medical records system project. Valdespino has more than 25 years of hospital management experience. He has previously served as president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles and as senior vice president of operations for Tenet Health Corporation’s Southern California region. Since taking over leadership of the hospital, Valdespino has also added new management staff and helped restructure plans for a new medical office building near the hospital campus that is expected to open in 2012. Question: In taking leadership over at a hospital that lost its former CEO to cancer, what problems did you find upon arrival? How did you address those problems? Answer: The problems were more that the management of the organization had been held together through an interim structure. There were a lot of projects that had been put on the back burner or in the pipeline that hadn’t moved forward. So, the demand for decisions from the new management team was pretty excessive, so this stuff was coming at you at a pretty fast pace. I think that we dealt with that by just sharing with folks that we’re going to need the opportunity to learn. We’re going to need the opportunity to kind of assess and then start making these decisions in a timely fashion and not make them in a rash fashion. Q: How is Valley Presbyterian doing financially? A: Al, when he got here in 2006, refinanced the organization and took the facility from a very debt-laden organization to a virtually debt-free organization, and that was work that was done with Al and the administration. We’re continuing it now. It’s a very significant change, and I think it has left this facility well-positioned to look at future growth, but we’re also facing our own challenges around reductions in government reimbursement. We have the potential to receive additional funds through a federal plan known as the hospital provider fee, which will further improve our financial positioning. Q: What sets Valley Presbyterian Hospital apart from other medical facilities in the community? What is the hospital’s niche? A: I think that the hospital’s niche is truly serving the community. We’re a freestanding community, non-profit, nonsectarian hospital, which is unique in itself. Local governance, local control and always 100 percent of the decisions are around “What are the needs of the patients in our community?” without any greater consideration to system needs, sister hospital needs, corporate strategies and the like. We are the largest provider of obstetric services in the Valley. We have a remarkably busy emergency room. We have a very busy cardiology program. One brand-new service we have is the Amputation Prevention Center, which is really geared toward the national issue of diabetes and vascular issues. Q: Which areas of the hospital have seen the greatest levels of growth, and why did the hospital choose to expand in these areas? A: Al Greene, who is my predecessor, he worked very hard on upgrading the radiology department, upgrading the lab, upgrading the emergency room. We put in a new cath lab, we put in a new nuclear medicine camera room and some new neurological equipment. I’ve continued in that pattern, and we’ve spent a significant amount of money this year upgrading the OR equipment. As a result, we’ve seen significant growth in the ER. We used to average about 3,500 visits a month. We’re averaging closer to 4,400 visits a month. We used to average about 350 to 400 surgeries per month. We’re now doing over 600 per month. Our cardiology program is growing at a nice rate. Our pediatrics program, neonatal unit, and OB program have always been strong, and we continue to provide the resources there. We also added an acute rehab program. Q: How has the addition of new technology to the hospital impacted the way it operates? A: All the equipment that we purchased here in the last several years, from a new CT Scan to the new Cath Lab, has been well utilized and has significantly improved input and access for patients to the hospital. I think a big change that we’re undergoing is the whole IT issue, which we’re trying to create, and an electronic medical records system here. We’re trying to create more connectivity with the physician community, and I think that’s something that we’re still in the throes of. We’ve actually had some very huge successes with how that program is rolling. From a technology standpoint and an equipment standpoint, you’re probably looking at over $20 million that’s been spent here in the last three years to recapitalize the facility. Q: How is Valley Presbyterian Hospital responding to nurse and doctor shortages in the industry? A: I think that we’ve done a really nice job in the last two or three years of recruiting more nurses here. We’ve remained competitive with our wage and benefits structure. We’ve teamed up with UniHealth and Cal State Northridge to create a program. As far as the physician side, I think we need to work closer with the physician community to recruit and work with the groups in the area around primary care. Q: How do you expect healthcare reform to impact Valley Presbyterian Hospital and other healthcare providers? A: There’s still some question marks as to how that funding will continue, but I think a lot of hospitals face that. I think the one thing that all hospitals have in common is that healthcare reform is going to create incentives and motivations for hospitals and physician groups to work much closer together under what’s being titled accountable care organizations, where there will be a much higher level of accountability expected from the public and the payers around the outcomes and the quality being provided to the organization. So, I think a lot of the work that we’re going to be doing over the next three or four years will be answering: How do we position the organization? Which medical groups do we align with? And how do we continue to monitor and improve and show the community the excellent quality that we’re providing here at the facility?” Gustavo “Gus” Valdespino Title: Chief Executive Officer age: 50 EDUCAtion: State University of New York at Stony Brook; University of California, Los Angeles; Harvard Business School Career Turning Point: Becoming a hospital CEO for the first time in 1990, which was at Los Alamitos Medical Center Personal: Married, with two children

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