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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

The Briefing

Dale Surowitz, CEO of the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, is like many hospital administrators in that he has seen both the industry he works in and his career change drastically over the last several years. As the head of a medical center with nearly 400 beds, 1,350 employees and about 1,200 physicians who refer patients to two facilities, Surowitz has several metaphorical plates spinning at any given time. That was especially true when nurses at his hospitals went out on strike three years ago. Surowitz spoke to Business Journal editor Michael Hart about what he learned from that experience, the challenges that come with being a manager in the health care industry and the differences in that industry since “the good old days” when a hospital administrator’s most important job was keeping the physicians who use his hospital happy. “I feel like I never had the good old days. The challenge now is that you have a lot more constituencies and a lot more pressures. “When we had our action here, we had four threatened nurses strikes and two that occurred, one for three days and one for four. That was in 1998 and we came out just fine. “The key thing is that you can’t overcommunicate. You need to make it clear what your objectives are. You have to mean what you say. And when you say that’s all you can do, it better be all you can do because otherwise you diminish your credibility. “You’ve got to be relatively quick and decisive. And I learned that fear of the unknown is worse than the actuality. You find ways to get through it. “The net result is that we settled the strike. You don’t win or lose a strike, you endure it and move forward. “You’ve got to balance all the different constituencies, not the least of which is the community. You’ve got corporate pressure, of course. Patient satisfaction is now important. And you have to manage from a cost basis. You need to work collaboratively with employees and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got a good cadre of doctors. “We’ve just got a lot more people involved now. “In a hospital, you’re not producing a product. These are not manufacturing issues, they’re people issues.”

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