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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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A New Treatment

Beverly Gilmore took the helm of West Hills Hospital during a state-wide health care crisis. Since Sept. 13, she’s been getting to know the hospital and surrounding community, and she said that despite the obvious challenges in health care administration and delivery, she loves her new job. Gilmore took over at the 236-bed hospital after former West Hills president Jim Sherman left to accept the same position at Los Robles Hospital. Previously, Gilmore had been CEO of Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo. Gilmore will be overseeing the seismic retrofitting of the hospital and building a new emergency room and intensive care unit, in addition to her regular duties running the hospital. Question: What have you identified as strengths and weaknesses of the hospital? Answer: First of all I think it appears to me that West Hills has a long very proud history. When I talk to physicians or people in the community or employees the first thing they tell me about is the number of years that they’ve been here. This has been the only place they’ve worked or practiced or it’s their favorite place. There’s a lot of personal identity here. It is probably a very good example of what a community hospital is. Community hospitals are very important, they are not only a place we go when we have an accident or we are ill or we’re concerned about our health. It’s really part of the community, it’s a part of the security and comfort of the community. Q: What do you think is the role of a community hospital? A: Community hospitals I think exist because people want to go somewhere that’s family to them. It’s in their neighborhood (and) they might actually be taken care of by a neighbor or a friend or somebody who knows somebody. West Hills seems to be that, it seems to be a community hospital and very much dedicated to serving the community. I think that’s not something we can take for granted these days. A lot of communities lose their hospital so I think that we’re very fortunate that in this community we have West Hills and it’s doing well and we’ll be here for them. Q: And what about the challenges that you see ahead? A: There are a lot of challenges. Not just for West Hills, but for health care. Health care is a very, very challenging place to be right now. There’s an increasing demand and an increasing cost due to technology, you know, the newest medications and the newest procedures. There are a lot of people who are uninsured or minimally insured, and there’s not a good way to pay for those things. I don’t think that as a society we’ve figured that out yet. And while we’re trying to figure that out, there are casualties. As you see there are hospitals that can’t survive. So I think that there are financial challenges, (and) challenges to actually have all of the professionals we need. It’s not easy to recruit physicians to California. Q: Why is that? A: Because it is very costly to live and practice and because the reimbursement is low. Nurses, pharmacists, techs, a lot of the people that work here, increasingly we’re all getting older. Not as many people went into the profession at a time when we need more of us. So we’re coming to a point where it’s going to be very difficult to have enough people to take care of us. Having enough skilled workforce is a challenge. Q: What other challenges do you see? A: I think the business in California is a challenge. In health care we have seismic legislation that requires us to do costly things, we have a number of mandates in health care that are not necessarily funded, so there s a lot of pressure on health care here and you can see some of the repercussions already. Q: Why is the hospital expanding its emergency room and intensive care unit? A: The emergency room and ICU expansions are really related to the needs of the community. There has been increasing volume in the emergency room in critical care hospitals. A lot of things are done by outpatient, when people are in the hospital those are usually serious things. This hospital and this community needed more beds in its emergency room and ICU. Along with that we have a plan, obviously, to meet the seismic requirements, which are not huge for the facility, as they are for some, but it’s about $10 million for just the seismic part. Q: When one of the big worries in health care is ER funding, and you’re currently expanding, how do you make sure that goes well and the hospital doesn’t lose money? A: Well, the emergency room is our front door these days. Most of the patients that are admitted to the hospital come though the emergency room, over half of them. So the emergency room is a place where anybody can come and have care, but it’s also where a lot of people are assessed and it’s determined that they need surgery or they need to be in a hospital, and so we have to have an emergency room and critical care unit that can accommodate that. We don’t want to turn people away or to not have the capacity to do that. But it is increasingly challenging, because as more and more people don’t have insurance, even employed people are increasingly not carrying insurance, that is a huge burden for us for physicians, for society. Q: Does the hospital have any financial plans for making sure the emergency room costs don’t swallow up the rest of the operation? A: I think what we have to do is be very careful that we are investing where we should. We look into the next 10 years, at what we think our community’s needs are going to be. We’ve looked at what is the incidence of illness here. Cardiovascular and oncology are two of the biggest. We have two very serious health factors here, smoking, obesity and diabetes, so we start to look at what are the kinds of services we’re going to need to have to support what this community is going to need and that’s how we design things. It does cause prioritization and we have to be very careful about that. Q: Hospital closures are in the news daily. If a hospital nearby closed and the patient burden increased, how would everything be handled? A: Well, we would certainly figure it out, it certainly is possible. I think if that were to occur, usually there is some time to plan, and fortunately we do have plans to expand our emergency room and our critical care unit so I think that would be an important safety valve for pressures from other areas. But I would tell you that I don’t think there’s any capacity in the system. I think that, not just for West Hills, but for health care in California and health care in Southern California. So as you see hospitals close there’s not a lot of extra staff or beds to accommodate so it does put pressure on everybody, especially in high census times like the winter. That gets very challenging for everybody, and it will get harder as hospitals close. SNAPSHOT – Beverly Gilmore Title: President and CEO of West Hills Hospital Born: May 3, 1949, Kirksville, Mo. Education: Bachelor of science degree in medical technology from the University of Hawaii, 1971 Career Turning Point: Working in management of clinical laboratories and radiology departments when she was given the opportunity to be CEO of a large multi-specialty medical group. There she learned about the physician side of the business and private practice. Personal: Married, five children Most Admired People: Susan B. Anthony and Abraham Lincoln

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