Sunday, May 10, 2009

Danville Regional CEO gets 18-month check up

Register & Bee Published: May 9, 2009

Jerel Humphrey, CEO of Danville Regional Medical Center, took time last week to reflect on what has been accomplished at the hospital during the almost 18 months he has been at the helm.
Humphrey, most often seen without a tie and wearing a sweater vest, laughs and jokes easily, but quickly turns serious when talking about what has transpired for the good and what still needs to be done at the hospital since its purchase by LifePoint Hospitals Inc. four years ago.
In a January 2008 interview with the Danville Register & Bee three months into his tenure, Humphrey said the hospital was still putting its executive team together. He said Tuesday that had been accomplished.
“We’ve now had a year-plus of an administration team working together,” he said. “We have rounded out our team and have Becky Logan as our chief nursing officer and Mark Anderson as our chief financial officer. Eric Barber has been added as a chief operating officer, and our chief medical officer is Tim Starling, a past president of the medical staff, as well as having served 32 years as a nephrologist with the Danville Urology Clinic. Frank Campbell has become the chairman of the board.”
Another area that has become more focused in the past year has been community outreach. Although the hospital has “sporadically” helped with community organizations in the past, Humphrey said this past year the hospital has tried to be more consistent with it.
“(Recently) we’ve done fundraising with the Free Clinic of Danville, signed a contract with PATHS and worked with Salvation Army,” he said.
Other community organizations that have been supported by Danville Regional through sponsorships and donations include Habitat for Humanity, the Free Clinic of Danville, the Boy Scouts, Special Olympics, the Langhorne House, the Danville Life Saving Crew and the YMCA, among many others.
The hospital’s 2008 Community Benefit Report reveals it has spent $21 million on charity care and bad debt; $172.1 million on government-sponsored health care (Medicare and Medicaid); $705,104 in community benefit programs ($35,820 in financial contributions, $94,585 in health professionals education and $574,699 in physician recruitment); and $896,000 in state taxes, $224,000 in local sales tax and $832,000 in property taxes.
Recalling the initial theme for his leadership as building trust with the community, Humphrey said he has made himself available and given talks to several community groups.
“The feedback has been that people appreciate open communication, our recommitment to the community and our recruitment efforts to bring in new physicians,” he said.
In the past year, 12 new physicians have been recruited, a process that can be lengthy.
“We identify people who want to come and then we have to get them properly credentialed to be on our medical staff and then sign any agreements involved,” Humphrey said, adding with a laugh, “And then they have to come.”
The number of physicians leaving the area has “trickled,” he said.
The hospital has received nothing but good comments about the re-affiliation of the Duke Heart Center with the hospital’s Heart Center of the Piedmont at Danville Regional Medical Center for the hospital’s cardiovascular services, according to Humphrey.
“The agreements with Duke are fully signed, and Dr. Richard Embrey, the cardiothoracic surgeon, has seen a doubling of his cases already,” Humphrey said. “The (open-heart surgery) volumes are very much coming back.”
In another partnership, Danville Regional is working with the LifePoint-owned Martinsville Memorial Hospital to provide cardiology care for their patients.
“The need for cardiology coverage in Martinsville is greater than the cardiologists in the area can currently provide, so we met with and requested that the Danville cardiologists assist with the coverage issue,” Humphrey said. “To their credit, they became credentialed and privileged to practice in Martinsville. Duke Heart Services is also lending its support with one of their cardiologists covering two days a week and the Danville cardiologists covering three days a week, which includes some Saturdays.”
He said that was an intermediate measure, since the Martinsville hospital is currently recruiting cardiologists.
Danville Regional has also partnered with the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine to bring in a residency program, which Humphrey said has brought positive comments from the community.
“The hospitalist program has also been getting a lot of positive comments from physicians and the patients being taken care of,” Humphrey said.
Hospitalists care for the patients in the hospital once they are admitted by their own physician.
Four hospitalists out of the current 15 on staff are scheduled to leave, one to pursue a fellowship and others for family reasons; however, the hospital is actively recruiting for replacements.

Millions in investments
Since LifePoint purchased Danville Regional Medical Center, the corporation has invested about $45 million in the hospital for facility improvements and equipment.
“We really do hear a lot of positive comments about the continued investment into the infrastructure of the hospital,” Humphrey said.
He cited the nursing staff as another big plus for the hospital and said that the usage of contract nursing staff has been eliminated, which he calls a “major accomplishment.”
“We have about a 5 percent turnover rate now, which is outstanding, and we are very proud of that,” he said. “The majority of the class (graduating from the hospital’s School of Nursing) this year will be hired. That’s always our game plan with the nursing school program.”
The nursing staff is “basically” fully staffed at this time, although Humphrey said that there is always some ebb and flow.
The patient census, or the number of admitted patients in the hospital at any given time, also has peaks and valleys, he said, but remains solid.
“We’ve seen a little softening of the census with the economic downturn and people putting elective procedures off as long as can,” he said. “Some of the physicians also say their patient loads are up and down. It’s really uneven right now.”
In other initiatives in the past year, the hospital has just opened a wound treatment center and an inpatient rehabilitation center and purchased another bloodmobile.

Revisiting impressions
New to the area 18 months ago, Humphrey said that his initial impressions of the Danville community were that “the people in Danville are open and friendly, there is a great future with all the economic developments and nobody knows how to merge.”
On Tuesday, Humphrey revisited those observations and said that the Danville community is still open and friendly and that, although economic development has been “stymied,” he remains “cautiously optimistic.”
On that last count, however, he holds to his original opinion, as many others do, that Danvillians are still merging-impaired.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

But, wait....I thought the Healthcare Leadership Council said that everything was hunky-dory at DRMC?

From the Nov 6 City Council minutes:

Former Mayor Sam Kushner appeared to ask City Council to get involved as a Committee of the Whole in order to find answers to concerns circulating about Danville Regional Medical Center (DRMC). Mr. Kushner said residents felt a great deal of insecurity due to the lack of transparency about the hospital’s business and it was felt the hospital had lost its heart and soul. He said citizens wanted to know wait times in the emergency room, how many doctors had relocated to other hospitals, and the nurse-to-patient ratio, among other concerns. He said these and other statistics were not available from LifePoint and said businesses seeking to relocate in our area would want to know about the hospital. He asked Council to communicate with the hospital administration and participate in conversation about what the facility is now doing and what it plans to do in the future.
DRMC Board Member Frank Campbell said he wished Mr. Kushner had come to him with his concerns. He said the board cared about DRMC and that it was unfair for Mr. Kushner to say the hospital had lost its heart and soul. Mr. Campbell advised the hospital was operating in the black, wait times in the Emergency Room had improved, and doctors had been hired to replace those that were lost. He invited Council Members to meet with the board and ask any questions it wished.
Dr. Miller said building up the public’s trust was important for the entire community and if the attitude of mistrust in the community was not changed, it would not matter how good the hospital was.
Mayor Saunders advised he and Interim City Manager Lacy had scheduled a meeting for Monday, November 10. He asked Council Members to submit questions for LifePoint to him or the City Clerk. He said would report to Council about the meeting. "

And from the Nov 18 City Council meeting minutes:
"Mayor Saunders advised that he and Mr. Lacy had a fruitful meeting with LifePoint on Monday and stated there would be another meeting with LifePoint officials. He encouraged Council Members who had not done so to provide questions for the hospital officials. "

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Joint venture","shared governance", "transparent process". What novel concepts.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out...

Bannock County Commissioners Select Legacy Hospital Partners
Pocatello, Idaho--(Business Wire)--The Bannock County Commission has announced the selection of Legacy Hospital Partners, Inc. (LHP) of Plano, Texas as the proposed capital partner in a joint venture for the construction and operation of a new regional medical center to be located on Portneuf Medical Center’s east campus. The proposed joint venture will be on the November ballot for approval by Bannock County’s voters.
On Thursday, in an open meeting at the Bannock County courthouse, the commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with LHP, citing several factors in their selection, including superior terms in their negotiated relationship, the experience of LHP’s key executives in forming Community Benefit Organization joint ventures of the type proposed for the medical center, and a clear preference for LHP expressed by the various stakeholder groups, including the community’s physicians, the hospital’s Board of Governors, its administration, and members of a citizens panel, all of whom reviewed the proposals from both Legacy Hospital Partners, Inc. and LifePoint, Inc., the other finalist that was not selected.
“LHP’s executive team pioneered the joint venture, shared-governance model that we were looking for in moving ahead with the new medical center,” stated Larry Ghan, Chair of the Bannock County Commission. “We weren’t going to give up significant local control, and we wanted the community’s physicians to be confident they could continue to deliver good medical care to their patients. Under the proposal from LHP, both of those things are guaranteed. I think the residents of Bannock County are going to be very happy with the proposed relationship and the safeguards of local control built into it.”
Ghan went on to state that the negotiated Letter of Intent – a document that lays out the contract the county and LHP will enter into if voters approve in November – will be made public at a Friday news conference scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Portneuf Medical Center’s west campus. “We want this to be a completely transparent process,” said Ghan. “If we’re going to ask the voters in Bannock County to approve this measure in November, then they deserve to know what’s in that document.”
The commissioners notified Legacy Hospital Partners immediately after the vote, to enable LHP’s executive team to travel to Pocatello for the Friday press conference.
Upon hearing the news, Dan Moen, Legacy Hospital Partners, Inc. CEO, said, “Legacy Hospital Partners, Inc.’s strategy is to partner with not-for-profit hospitals such as Portneuf Medical Center in the operation and ownership of community hospitals. We are very honored to have been selected as the capital partner for Portneuf. Our team has been impressed by the community and its commitment of time and energy to find the right partner for the hospital’s future. I want to thank the community leaders, elected officials, physicians, hospital employees, educators and others who have invested so much in this process. We look forward to working with you in developing a regional medical center that is second to none.”
In the proposed relationship, the new medical center will be operated as a joint venture between Legacy Hospital Partners and Portneuf Health Care Foundation, which will hold the community’s interest in the medical center. The joint venture’s board of directors will be appointed on a 50-50 basis by the directors of the Portneuf Health Care Foundation and LHP. Under a voting arrangement called “block voting,” the board will be unable to approve any measures unless a majority of each side’s board members approve. In addition, the Foundation’s local board representatives must approve any proposed CEO for the hospital and may terminate the CEO without the approval of LHP’s board representatives. Finally, a completely local board of trustees comprised of at least 50 percent physicians will oversee clinical care issues.
“This governance model absolutely guarantees that local influence over our hospital will continue,” stated Commissioner Lin Whitworth. “I’ve had people ask me why a capital partner that owns the majority of a new medical center would give us 50 percent control. If you think about it, it’s very smart on their part. Who’s going to know better what services our local hospital should deliver than our local residents and our physicians? If we’re meeting the needs of the region, the hospital will grow and thrive. And that makes LHP’s investment worth more.”
The commissioners acknowledged that while they are confident the proposed joint venture represents the best solution to the area’s need for a new state-of-the-art medical center, there is a lot of work to do in educating the county’s voters between now and November. “What the voters decide in November will shape health care in our region for decades to come,” said Commissioner Steve Hadley. “We can go forward, or we can fall backward. It’s our job between now and November to answer every question and satisfy the residents of Bannock County that this represents a tremendous opportunity for all of us.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"It’s on the Web"

Danville Register & Bee editorial - August 24, 2008

Danville Regional Medical Center received some bad publicity this week in a USA Today story about the federal government’s Hospital Compare Web site (

The story reported on hospital death rates for adults suffering from heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia. Danville Regional’s death rate for heart attacks was 19.6 percent; for heart failure, the death rate was 15.5 percent. By contrast, Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania had a heart attack death rate of just 11.6 percent.

The Hospital Compare Web site gives people the ability to easily make apples-to-apples comparisons of their health care options.

The availability of this kind of free, readily accessible information offers our hospital the opportunity to publicly demonstrate that the changes it has made have changed care there for the better. When the hospital was locally owned, the community had no way of knowing that kind of information. Now, it’s on the Internet for the world to see — and for local people to study.

That 19.6 percent death rate for heart attack patients in 2007 was the worst in the nation. But the statistics for 2006 were actually much worse: 24 percent.

“We continue to improve our care,” said Dr. Michael A. Moore, director of medical education at the hospital. “This just makes us want to improve further.”

Between 2006 and 2007, the heart failure death rate at Danville Regional actually jumped from 14.6 percent to 15.5 percent.

Those two years, 2006 and 2007, were tumultuous ones at Danville Regional Medical Center; they were the first two full years Danville Regional was owned by LifePoint Hospitals Inc.

During that time, there were staff layoffs, revolving door management, a preliminary denial of the hospital’s accreditation and two separate attempts by Danville City Council to publicly study the problems at Danville Regional. During the same time, we saw increased marketing efforts by other regional hospitals to attract local people to their facilities.

What the numbers don’t show is the work that has been done this year by CEO Jerel Humphrey, the hiring of cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Richard Embry and the agreement that will keep the Heart Center of the Piedmont affiliated with Duke Heart Center through 2010.

Clearly, the death rates for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia at Danville Regional during 2006 and 2007 are not acceptable.

We applaud the federal government for lifting the veil of secrecy from these kinds of statistics.

As for Danville Regional, its challenge remains: To continue to improve so that next year at this time, we’ll have some good news to report.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Danville Regional claims patient count stable"

Register Bee - August 7, 2008

The head of Danville Regional Medical Center said Thursday that, despite rumors, there has not been a significant decline in daily patient counts at the hospital and no job losses related to patient counts.
“That’s not true at all,” Jerel Humphrey, Danville Regional’s chief executive officer, said. “But we can’t control what people say.”
Daily patient counts remain stable for this time of year, he said, noting there has been a slight decrease in 2006-08.
Humphrey said patient numbers are well above 100 a day. While the summer season may bring smaller patient counts, it’s the opposite during the winter when more people are sick.
“We’re more than busy,” he said.
Humphrey added that at no time are hospital layoffs tied to patient count number. He said 13 non-clinical jobs were eliminated in July and that these employees were offered other jobs at the hospital, which employs about 1,400 people.
“We move people around and give them new opportunities,” he said.
The hospital has recruited more than seven new physicians and 60 new nurses. Danville Regional did that by eliminating agency nurses, which are health care providers known as traveling nurses who can help fill understaffed shifts.
“What we’re seeing is nothing out of the ordinary,” Humphrey said.

Hello again.

Just call me Mark Martin or Brett Favre....just can't stay retired from the blog. There is still some stuff that I'd like to post related to DRMC, so you may see me here from time to time. To those of you that are still inside at DRMC, I'll count on you for the most up-to-date info about how things are inside the four walls.

Anyway...back to the reason of my post...the Danville Regional Foundation just released its regional healthcare assessment (this is the first of three major assessments the DRF is undertaking. The others are economic revitalization and educational attainment). Here is a link to the full report:

One question that comes to was the mission of DRMC back 'in the day' to provide community outreach to address some of the issues identified in this study. Where does any of that fit into the mission of a for-profit?

Here is the Register & Bee article:
"Health assessment study shows region’s needs"
Danville Register & Bee - August 12, 2008

The numbers are in and indicate that health care across the Dan River Region needs to be improved.
The Danville Regional Foundation ordered a health assessment study done so it could determine what health issues in the region needed its attention the most. The foundation also will be studying the education and economic development needs of Danville, Pittsylvania County and Caswell County, N.C.
The health assessment was developed by MDC Inc., of Chapel Hill, N.C., and implemented by researchers from East Tennessee State University, who interviewed hundreds of residents, community leaders and heath providers to make the assessment.
Some of the more alarming statistics show that parts of the region have much higher percentages of certain medical conditions and diseases than the national average.
From 1999-2003, Danville had 154.4 incidences of breast cancer per 100,000 people, compared to Virginia’s overall average of 122.6 and the national average of 125.3. Pittsylvania County, however, came in much lower than state and national averages, at 100.7, and while North Carolina came in above the national average at 147.3, Caswell County came in at 106.5.
Deaths from heart disease in 2004 were higher in all three areas compared to state and national averages. The rate per 100,000 nationally was 163.4. Though Virginia came in at 124.9 overall; in Pittsylvania County, the rate was 186.1 and in Danville, the number jumped to 281.9. North Carolina also was below the national average at 146.1, but Caswell County came in at 199.
Diabetes and strokes had similar results. Lung cancer numbers, however, showed Danville at well above the national and state averages, while Pittsylvania and Caswell counties came in well below.
Birth rates also were studied and showed the region had more births to unwed mothers than state and local averages, and that low birth weights were higher than the state and national averages. The study also showed that Danville mothers were almost 10 times as likely to have late or no prenatal care — the national rate was 3.6 in 2004, while in Danville the rate was 33. Virginia overall came in at 15 percent, while Pittsylvania County’s rate was 16, and in North Carolina, the rate in 2005 was 15.9, with Caswell County coming in at 17.
Infant mortality rates were similar.
The national average was 6.9 per 1,000 births. In 2005, Virginia’s rate was 7.4, Danville’s 15.4 and Pittsylvania County’s 10.5. In North Carolina, the 2003 rate was 8.2 and Caswell County’s was 8.1.
“There are other parts of the world we don’t want to compare ourselves to with similar (infant mortality rate) numbers,” Karl Stauber, director of the foundation, said Monday.
Stauber said the foundation is studying the report to determine which areas it can “take a leadership role” in improving.
The report listed areas it considers most important to improve, including the area’s increased drug use, as well as the perception that health care is inaccessible and the need for everyone to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Stauber said the foundation will know in a month or two which areas it will be able to tackle directly, in partnership with local health organizations.
“We want to see more conversation in the community (about health issues),” he said. “We will also remain open to grant requests that cut across all concerns.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Insult to injury...(or, "You can't make this stuff up")

I wasn't going to post to the blog that I don't work there, I'd like to close that chapter and move on. But my good friends at DRMC just did something that I have to share with you.

I came home today from working on getting a new job. I go to the mailbox and there is my final paycheck. But it wasn't the check that made me laugh at the sick irony...

It was the other envelope from DRMC...the one from Human Resources...

The one that started "Dear Valued Associate"...the one that was dated 10 days after they told me they didn't need me anymore.

Yes, they were asking this "Valued Associate" if I would take a few minutes to complete the employee satisfaction survey.

They assured me that they would be able to use the results to measure my "views of the work place, supervision, morale and other key quality and satisfaction indicators."

Well, I guess I should say thanks for caring enough to ask me for my opinion. I sure hope the survey has comment boxes.

But...I wonder if I have to be present to win the drawing for the big screen TV.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Breathe in, breathe out, move on...

Well, after more years than I care to count, LPNT informed me on Monday that my services are no longer needed.

It's been a good ride....I've worked with some great people who really care about their job, their community, and the patients they serve. To those who have moved on, I wish you the best. To those that are still at DRMC, I wish you the strength to keep working for the patients and their families (you know, neighbor to neighbor).

It's really hard not to write cynical thoughts here about LPNT. But I know that my manager and my co-workers will continue to strive to do their best. I hope that the community stays tuned to what is going on at the hospital and continues to ask the hard questions. Even though someone else owns it, it is still "our" hospital. Those who call the shots in Brentwood will never seek care here so, in my opinion, their vested interest in the place are purely financial (yes, I know that is those who are going to type comments just to say "duh", please save the trouble). My hope is that the outlook of the place will eventually change. Keep your fingers crossed on that one.

Thanks to everyone who has posted on this board, and thanks to those who just stopped by to read what's happening. Some posts have been a waste of pixels, but I believe that dialogue took place here that would not have happened otherwise.

I want to go on record again and commend Delegate Danny Marshall for sponsoring the bill about non-profit sales that became law. That effort proves to me that this whole debacle was not just in the imagination of a few. It was a serious event that other communities can learn from.

So, I bid you farewell, adieu, auf wiedersehen, and adios. I'll leave you with some words from that great prophet, Jackson Browne:

"I want to know what became of the changes we waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening
I've been aware of the time going by, they say in the end it's the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again.

Sentinel Event

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Hospital not skipping a beat"

Danville Register & Bee
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Five years ago this month, Danville Regional Medical Center was proud to announce the first open-heart surgery at the recently completed Heart Center of the Piedmont - a $9 million surgical facility operated jointly with the Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic.About 600 procedures have been completed since then. But last summer, it was clear that patient load was dropping and quality of care was being questioned, and it seemed that Duke wasn’t so sure it wanted its name on the door anymore.Upon the recent completion of a comprehensive assessment, Duke Heart Center faculty and staff and LifePoint Hospitals Inc., Danville Regional’s parent company, agreed that the collaboration was successful and beneficial to both entities and will continue through 2010.“Duke Heart Center faculty will continue to provide uninterrupted, on-site cardiovascular surgical services and on-call coverage for the residents of Danville and the Dan River Region,” said Dr. Peter Smith, chief of cardiac thoracic surgery at Duke University Medical Center.Jerel Humphrey, the new president and chief executive officer of Danville Regional, seems pleased with the decision.“It’s a win-win-win,” he said, “for the hospital, for Duke and the community.”
Uncertainty about the futureA number of factors over the past few years called continuation of the program into question, including administrative changes and community perceptions of the hospital.In 2005, LifePoint Hospitals Inc. bought Danville Regional, bringing a series of operational shifts.“The hospital historically (had) been run as a nonprofit organization,” Dr. Syed Ahmed, a cardiologist who has been with the hospital for 25 years, said. “Suddenly, it became for-profit and changes were brought into the system.“Some of the changes were shocking, but inevitable, (and) some of the problems we saw were inherent to changes taking place on a larger scale - ownership, a different corporate structure, different psychology.”Issues with the cardiovascular surgical program were “something between the administration of Danville Regional and the (administration at Duke)…and the contractual agreement they had,” Ahmed said, noting the issues had nothing to do with the physicians.“…Problems with the sale of the hospital and administrative changes” also may have contributed to community attitudes about Danville Regional, Ahmed said, which in turn partially contributed to lower patient volumes in the cardiovascular surgery program, as well as in the hospital overall.Another possible cause of lower numbers of cardiovascular surgical patients was a study published in June by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Health Human Services, that ranked Danville as one of the seven worst hospitals for heart attack mortality rates. Although that study did not concern the cardiovascular surgery program, cardiologist Dr. Bosh Zakhary said in August that it influenced the community.That same month, Dr. Lee McCann, Duke’s cardiothoracic surgeon responsible for all surgical procedures at the Heart Center, announced his resignation citing low patient volume and financial troubles.The “service line assessment” of the program was announced at the same time.
All clear“The good news is that they were very positive with what they found and wanted to continue,” Humphrey said. “Their assessment to me is an independent seal of approval of where the hospital is … they don’t associate with programs that aren’t high quality.”Humphrey acknowledged that canceling the program was an option as Duke was “evaluating the status of the relationship.”Duke wants to “restore the hospital to its position as a trusted provider,” Smith said.“It’s been a problem,” he said. “The community deserves first class hospital-based care and that’s our objective. … Duke and Duke physicians have taken care of citizens in (the) county forever. We have a vested interest in the health of your community members.“We are very interested in maintaining that and improving it.”Last week, officials were still putting finishing touches on the agreement between Duke and LifePoint.“We’re still negotiating and working with LifePoint to establish a relationship that is going to enhance the hospital’s reputation and ability to deliver health care,” Smith said. “…This is a joint venture. Duke can’t do it alone; LifePoint has to show they’re committing.”Smith, however, is confident that the relationship will last.“Each step we take, and this is the first one, is an indication that Duke believes we can establish the conditions for success,” he said.
The staffDr. Richard Embry, a “very experienced cardiothoracic surgeon,” currently in Springfield, Ill., is expected to be the permanent cardiothoracic surgeon with the program, Smith said.Embry will operate full time in Danville, though technically will be an employee of Duke.“I think he’s going to be a very good addition to the community,” Ahmed said. “He should be able to carry the cardiovascular surgical program forward.”In addition to Embry, Duke and LifePoint are actively recruiting a permanent cardiovascular surgeon to add to the team.After McCann’s departure at the end of this month, Humphrey said Duke will be rotating and sending surgeons on an “as needed basis” for interim support, which he expects to last about two months.“Continuation of the program is key,” Humphrey said. “No interruptions.”Smith said 13 Duke faculty members also will be present to help with surgeries, evaluate and perform physician activities.Danville Regional has six full-time cardiologists on its staff as well. Optimism abounds“Stay tuned,” Humphrey said about advances in the program.“Duke is going to continue to be the provider of cardiac surgery service and we’ve established conditions to provide the same level of care (that one gets) at Duke,” Smith said. “LifePoint has made a commitment to enhance cardiovascular services in general … a critical fist step to overall improvement to the community’s hospitals.”Ahmed sees hope in improving the image of the hospital with the community. “Mr. Humphrey is taking a proactive role in terms of restoring the confidence of the general public,” Ahmed said. “And certainly the re-establishment of the relationship with Duke is going to have a positive impact in terms of cardiovascular programs in particular and the hospital in general.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lab update?

It's been a month since I posted the information from "danvillenewsandviews" regarding the status of the lab.

So, what is the latest word on the lab? How is the review process going and what impact will it have on lab staff, hospital services and patients/customers?

LPNT trading at lowest stock price since Oct 2003

From Note that this article was written on Feb 9. Today, LPNT is trading at $24.69.

The full article is at:{CD5A6322-2A28-4D6A-A312-5EFD544AC446}

Sector Snap: Hospital operators

NEW YORK, Feb 09, 2008 (AP via COMTEX) -- Shares of health care facility operators fell Friday, with LifePoint Hospitals Inc. nearing a four-year low after the company reported a 20 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, missing Wall Street expectations.
LifePoint said higher operating costs and bad debt reserves pushed its fourth-quarter profit down, while its quarterly sales rose 5 percent but missed analysts' estimates. Admissions fell 4.2 percent in the quarter to 47,990 from 50,119, while bad debt reserves grew to $81.1 million from $66.9 million a year ago.
Lifepoint's stock fell $2.17, or 8 percent, to $24.87, having dropped to a low of $24.77 earlier in the day, its cheapest price since October 2003.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Heart doctor to join council "

Danville Register & Bee
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A local cardiologist beat out a former Danville City Council member and five others to fill the seat vacated by Dr. Wayne Williams.

Dr. Gary Miller, a cardiologist with Cardiology Consultants of Danville Inc., was appointed to council during Tuesday’s regular meeting. Williams, an ear, nose and throat doctor, resigned at the end of last year after accepting a job in Georgia.

Miller, who regularly attends the council meetings, expressed his surprise at the announcement and said he was already beginning to collect signatures on petitions so he could run in the May election.

“I didn’t run for the position because I was opposed to what council has been doing,” he said. “I think the direction of this council, especially in the last couple of years, has been magnificent.”

Miller pointed particularly to the number of new jobs that have come to Danville recently, and said he hoped to be able to help council with its goals.

Miller beat out former councilmember Albert “Buddy” Rawley Jr., as well as candidates David Robertson, Fred Shanks III, George Supensky, Martha Lopez Coleman and Frank Kyles. They all have until March 4 to file to run in the May election.

Councilman Adam Tomer made the resolution to appoint Miller, and it was seconded by Councilwoman Ruby Archie.

“Though I disagreed with the process at first - I thought we should have a special election - I just want to say this was handled professionally and we had a good open dialogue,” Tomer said. “Everyone should be proud of the resolution put forth here.”

Councilman E. Stokes Daniels Jr. said he supported Miller’s appointment “100 percent.”

“I thought this (appointment) would be very good for this council,” Daniels said. “All who participated did a very good job and all of them were well-qualified.”

Miller will be sworn in at the March 4 council meeting.


The next Danville City Council meeting is scheduled for March 4, but there will be a joint Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors/Danville City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Taking shape"

Danville Register and Bee - editorial
Sunday, February 17, 2008

Karl Stauber called this week’s $2 million grant to help bring Com.40 Ltd. to the city “pretty unusual” for the Danville Regional Foundation.
Stauber, the president and CEO of the foundation started with the $200 million profit from the sale of Danville Regional Medical Center, recently concluded his first six months in Danville.
Com.40 Ltd., a Polish maker of mattresses and upholstered furniture, will hire 813 people over seven years, making it the largest single manufacturing job announcement in the Dan River Region in the past four years.
“The Danville region needs success stories,” Stauber said this week. “We’re looking for opportunities that build legitimate hope.”
Stauber believes Com.40 offers laid off tobacco and textile workers a chance to move into living wage jobs that will help “stabilize the employment base in the community.”
But the core mission of the Danville Regional Foundation is advancing the health, welfare and education of local residents, not being a source of money to close economic development deals.
“I don’t imagine that we’re going to do too many Com.40s,” Stauber said.
But two other projects recently supported by the Regional Foundation better define the types of projects it will support in the future.
The first is two grants totaling $1.5 million over five years to the Free Clinic of Danville. The money will help the clinic treat more patients and put it in a better financial position.
Helping the Free Clinic is not only directly tied to the Regional Foundation’s core function of advancing health care, but it made sense because of the tobacco and textile company layoffs that led thousands of people here to lose their health care coverage.
The Free Clinic grants seem obvious, but people would say the same thing about the BEST Coalition if they knew how much money the working poor were walking away from.
Low-income workers are eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, but because so many of them don’t take the credit, the United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County, Pittsylvania County Community Action, the Virginia Legal Aid Society and the Caswell County, N.C., Senior Center formed the “Building Economic Success Together” Coalition to get more local people to take this credit.
“A lot of these folks don’t even file taxes,” Stauber said, adding that 80 percent of the money people receive from the EITC flows through the local economy.
Stauber believes getting people to take a federal tax credit they’re already entitled to is tied to the larger issue of financial literacy - teaching the working poor how to get the best deals on everything from mortgages and car loans to insurance.
Those kinds of things can lead to real changes in the lives of a great many people - and long-term change is the Danville Regional Foundation’s business.
The Danville Regional Foundation’s recent grants have started to define this critical local organization. The news so far is good.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Too late, on time"

Danville Register and Bee - Editorial
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How many local people are still angry that Danville Regional Medical Center was sold in 2005?
Both the hospital’s buyer, LifePoint Hospitals Inc., and the Danville Regional Foundation, the group formed to distribute the profits from the sale, want to move on. But moving on doesn’t make much sense unless some lessons can be learned and some changes made.
This year, Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, is trying to do just that with a bill that would force the process of selling a nonprofit hospital into the light of day.
Marshall’s bill would mandate a public process, unlike the behind-closed-doors sale of Danville Regional that created so much ill will.
“It lets the people know there will be a public hearing,” Marshall said of his bill. That public hearing would take place at least six months before a hospital sale, and the public would have to be told about proposed staffing changes and be presented with “a business plan explaining how the sale or conversion will affect the community.”
A separate provision that would prevent a nonprofit hospital’s directors from serving “on a newly established private foundation’s board of directors” was taken out of the bill and will have to be introduced next year.
Marshall’s bill can’t change what happened to Danville Regional, and it doesn’t put the brakes on future sales of nonprofit hospitals. But it does drag the process into the light of day, and it could help in a lot of future situations. Virginia is home to approximately 100 acute care hospitals, and 75 to 80 percent of them are nonprofit, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, which supports Marshall’s bill.
“We worked with Delegate Marshall to come up with this language,” Katharine M. Webb, senior vice president of the association, said of the bill. It passed the House of Delegates 97-1 and has already been referred to the Senate Courts of Justice committee.
If Marshall is a couple of years late with the hospital sale bill, he’s a couple of months ahead with a bill that could make it easier for Danville City Council to eventually eliminate the treasurer’s office.
This has become an important issue locally because the last elected treasurer, Lynda McDowell, was indicted on criminal charges. She resigned her office and pleaded guilty. Today, Danville has an interim treasurer and City Council is considering eliminating the treasurer’s office entirely.
A quirk in state law could drag the process out so long that a new treasurer could be elected in 2009 - before Danville’s voters get a chance to answer the larger, more important question. But Marshall’s bill could put the fate of the treasurer’s office on the November ballot if City Council decides to move in that direction.
These two bills remind us experience is a tough teacher, leaving us to try to speed up some things while slowing others down.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Danville delegate looks to restrict hospital sales"

Danville Register & Bee
Friday, February 1, 2008

RICHMOND - When Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, crafted his legislation setting up some rules for sales of non-profit hospitals, he was hoping to save other communities from the upheaval Danville faced when its only hospital changed hands in 2005.
“This will not help Danville one bit - the horse is out of the barn, so to speak,” Marshall said Wednesday, adding that everything the hospital foundation board did was legal when Lifepoint Hospitals Inc. purchased Danville Regional Medical Center in July 2005.
Marshall said his main question then, and now, is, “Who owns a not-for-profit hospital? My mother-in-law worked at Dan River Mills for the majority of her life, along with thousands of other people. She told me that they did a payroll deduction there (that was) given to the hospital to start (it) and also to expand the hospital.
“The hospital, in my opinion, was owned by the public. The public should at least have notice the hospital’s going to be sold.”
The delegate’s original bill called for a public hearing at least six months prior to such a sale or before the conversion from non-profit to profit in order to let the public know if there would be any changes in staffing at the hospital and present a business plan to explain how the change would affect the community.
The bill also states that if a private foundation is set up in connection with the new for-profit hospital, that no previous member of the non-profit’s hospital board of directors could serve on the foundation’s board.
But when the bill went before the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee this week, changes were made that reduced the amount of notice the public should get - now the bill states the public hearing should be held only 40 days before the sale - and the rule about who sits on the board was completely deleted.
The bill passed unanimously in committee is now on the House floor.
Marshall said the changes were necessary to ensure the bill passed, and that preventing members of a hospital’s board from sitting on any future foundation formed from the proceeds is “another bill for another day.”
He said it is crucial, especially in a one-hospital city like Danville, that the public be aware of such deals before they are finalized.
“It’s a lot different than if you have a not-for-profit hospital in a city like Richmond,” Marshall said. “If you don’t like the hospital down the street, you’ve got three more to go to. You don’t have that situation in a one-hospital town.”
Marshall acknowledged that there are still several people in Danville that are angry about the hospital’s sale and have expressed displeasure about the level of care at Danville Regional, preferring instead to go out of town whenever possible for hospital care.
“I hope they get the hospital fixed,” Marshall said. “If you go to those (out-of-town) hospitals and you are out-of-network, it costs a lot of money.”


Danville Free Clinic awarded $1.4 mil.
Danville Register and Bee
Friday, February 1, 2008
The Danville Regional Foundation has announced this morning it will award a grant of $1.4 million to the Free Clinic of Danville.
The money will allow the clinic to hire a full-time nurse practitioner, a full-time executive director and a full-time clinical director, as well as get the resources they need to develop a long-range strategic and business plan.

The Danville Regional Foundation holds the money made from the sale of Danville Regional Medical Center in 2005.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Trust but verify"

Earning our trust
Danville Register and Bee editorial
January 25, 2008

Ronald Reagan liked to repeat the Russian proverb, “Trust but verify,” to describe his position on relations with the Soviet Union. Reagan could even say it in Russian.
That old proverb certainly applies to Jerel Humphrey, the latest CEO of Danville Regional Medical Center. We want to trust that Humphrey will work to make the hospital better, but we need to keep a careful watch on what happens, not what’s said.
“In the past, we haven’t done things (openly), and there is a healthy amount of skepticism, so (it) will take time to build trust,” Humphrey said recently. “That is my overall theme, and that takes time.”
After 90 days on the job, Humphrey has taken one step his immediate predecessor never did: He moved to Danville and bought a house.
The fact that such a minor matter like the hospital’s CEO moving to Danville is one indication of how strained relations are between the community and Danville Regional Medical Center and its corporate parent, LifePoint Hospitals Inc.
While LifePoint had no role in the controversial sale of Danville Regional in July 2005, the Tennessee-based company bears responsibility for what has happened since then.
To win back community support, Humphrey will have to continue to work with the Healthcare Leadership Council, the group set up to provide communication between the hospital and the community. Its members have been appointed by the local governments in Danville, Pittsylvania County and Caswell County, N.C. - Danville Regional’s core market.
The hospital will have to avoid embarrassments like the preliminary denial of accreditation that dogged the last CEO. Danville Regional will have to win the hearts, minds and support of doctors, nurses and patients.
In his first 90 days, Humphrey has overseen a transition in the hospital’s food service and selected a local firm for the hospital’s copier contract. Humphrey said Danville Regional may offer all private rooms, the Heart Center of the Piedmont will continue to be affiliated with Duke University Medical Center and Danville Regional has hired a nurse recruiter.
“I challenge people to not say ‘LifePoint’ but to say ‘Danville Regional Medical Center,’” Humphrey said. “Think of this as the community’s hospital and not LifePoint. The issue I’m trying to put in front is that we are making decisions locally.”
It’s all right to trust Danville Regional’s new CEO, but the community has to closely watch what happens there. A strong local hospital is too important to leave to chance.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Is DRMC closing its laboratory?"


"DRMC is not closing its lab. It is a requisite for Joint Commission accreditation and state licensure that all hospitals maintain a laboratory for its patients.
To clarify, there are several separate components to the hospital’s laboratory program. DRMC currently operates a main laboratory that services in-patients, out-patients and reference testing for physician office collected specimens and employment related testing for businesses. The reference lab portion of the lab is the most competitive and has experienced declining volumes in recent years.
The ultimate goal is to maintain the in-house DRMC laboratory that is providing all of the needed services for the hospital’s in-patients, as well as out-patients. At the same time we want to assure the continued provision of reference laboratory services for physician offices in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible.
DRMC is currently going through a review process involving physicians and administrators. The hospital is constantly looking at all aspects of services it provides and will continue to do so. We are a quality health care provider first and foremost; however, we also have a fiscal responsibility to provide quality health care in the most cost effective manner for the patients who expect that. "

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Board chairman says it's time to move past '05 sale"

Danville Register & Bee
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good days are ahead for Danville Regional Medical Center, especially with the hiring of CEO Jerel Humphrey, according to the new chairman of the hospital’s Board of Trustees.
“I feel very satisfied that Jerel Humphrey is the right person to be CEO at this point,” said Dr. Frank Campbell, who presided as chairman for the first time Monday. “He has already brought his family here and bought a house.”
Campbell, who replaces chairwoman Betty Jo Foster, is ready to put the problems surrounding the sale of Danville Regional to LifePoint Hospitals Inc. in 2005 behind the board and hopes the community will do the same.
“An important point is that LifePoint realizes they made numerous mistakes in the early months, and they are working hard to correct them,” Campbell said. “The local people should not see any difference in the hospital, regardless of who owns it. That is the goal of the board.
“If we can ever get to the point where people’s memories forget 2005, we’ll be the same as before the sale.”
Campbell said that every member of the board right now believes in the hospital and knows Danville needs it.
The function of the board members has not changed since the hospital was sold, he said.
“We deal with the same issues,” Campbell said. “Although the financial decisions are made by the CEO, we have access to all the numbers. Nothing has changed but the ownership.”
He said that the problems the Emergency Department faces in lengthy wait times isn’t a situation unique to the Danville hospital.
“The emergency room waiting times are bad all over,” Campbell said. “The truth is that our emergency room is not as good as some, but it is better than most.
“We are near the top in Virginia to get them in, get them processed and get them where they want to be.”
For the future, Campbell said the board seeks to restore confidence in the hospital.
“What we need to do is restore the pride and confidence of the people in this community in the hospital - it’s their hospital,” he said. “We also have to restore the confidence the medical community has in the hospital, especially the doctors.
“The board will continue to respect the doctors, and we want them to feel good about the hospital where they practice.
“But we’ve got to be consistent,” Campbell said. “The LifePoint executives and executives in the hospital can’t promise something and (not do it.)”
He has a personal stake in the success of the hospital.
Campbell and his wife, Janet, have chosen to retire in Danville, so he said he is committed to making the hospital the best it is.

Campbell explained what the Board of Trustees does:
• Hospital has to have one to be approved by the Joint Commission.
• Board hears reports about doctors; since the trustees
are the only people who can credential physicians to work
in the hospital. It deals with discipline problems.
• Sees the financial documents the same way as before.
• Every function the board had in 2005 before the sale, it still has today.

Members of the Board of Trustees:
• Dr. Frank R. Campbell, Chair
• Rev. Charles Breindel
• Timothy W. Brotherton, Ph.D., M.D.
• Michael A. Caplan, M.D.
• George B. Daniel
• Jerel T. Humphrey
• Janet Laughlin, Ph.D.
• Thomas M. Oates, Jr., M.D.
• Mukesh B. Patel, M.D.
• Larry S. Patterson
• Richard A. Smith, M.D.

"Hospital CEO: 'Trust me'"

Danville Register & Bee
Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sitting in his office with almost 90 days under his belt as CEO of the hospital, Jerel Humphrey said the theme for his leadership is building trust, even though he knows it will take time for the community to trust Danville Regional Medical Center again.
Humphrey said he hopes he has taken that first step by buying a home in Danville.
“Wherever I go to speak to any group, I tell them that I’ve bought a house, and they all clap,” Humphrey said with a laugh.
Former hospital CEO Art Doloresco never moved to Danville, which became a source of irritation to the community.
Humphrey cited the recent changes in the dietary contract as the perfect example of how he wants to build trust by the way he does business.
“We have had a contract with Aramark for 30 years for our dietary department, but we recently moved them to a contract with Danville Regional,” he said. “We offered a job to any employee who wanted and qualified for one. We made them ‘whole’ from Aramark to Danville Regional as far as tenure and salary.
“We went to the employees and explained to them that they would be fairly dealt with, and then that’s what we did. We kept them informed.
“It is a concrete example of how we will do business in the future.”
Humphrey cited another example of “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk.”
“We signed a $600,000 copier contract with a local company rather than going national,” he said. “We can’t always go local, but we will try.
“I don’t know how to do it any other way but to be up front.”
Humphrey said what has gone on at Danville Regional has been “unprecedented” and cited a void of leadership, but said that the feedback he has gotten shows the hospital is making progress.
“Becky Logan has been hired as the new chief nursing officer, but she has only been here a little longer than I have,” Humphrey said. “Mark Anderson has just started as the chief financial officer, and we are close to bringing on a chief operating officer.
“So we are still putting our team together and putting the pieces together.”
He is optimistic about the condition of the hospital, however.
“There are good things going on,” Humphrey said. “With more than 1,000 employees, we are the third largest employer in the (area) behind Goodyear and Pittsylvania County Schools.
“Our salary and wages in 2006 were more than $60 million.”
Plus, he said, the family is enjoying Danville.
Humphrey and his wife have bought a home in Pinetag, and the couple’s youngest daughter Rachel is a junior in high school and will be attending Tunstall High School.
“We clearly understood that the administration needed to live here,” Humphrey said. “Rachel’s been a real pro about moving when she’s a junior in high school. She’s a very independent girl.”
The CEO said he has made three overall observations since he has been in Danville.
“The people in Danville are open and friendly,” Humphrey said, “there is a great future with all the economic development initiatives, and nobody knows how to merge.”
But, joking aside, Humphrey said changes are being made at the hospital that he hopes will change the community’s perception, although he readily admits that those changes will take time.
He challenged the community to change their communication a little also.
“I challenge people to not say ‘Lifepoint’ but to say ‘Danville Regional Medical Center,’” he said. “Think of this as the community’s hospital and not Lifepoint (the hospital’s owner). The issue I’m trying to put in front is that we are making decisions locally.”
He likened the hospital to a Charlie Brown metaphor in which Lucy promises to hold the football for Charlie to kick and then always pulls it out at the last minute.
“In the past, we haven’t done things (openly), and there is a healthy amount of skepticism, so (it) will take time to build trust,” Humphrey said. “That is my overall theme, and that takes time.”

"Emergency Department undergoes many changes"

Danville Register & Bee
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Danville Regional Medical Center is making changes to reduce the wait times at the Emergency Department with the arrival of the hospital’s new CEO.
Jerel Humphrey pointed to the Direct Admit program that Becky Logan, the new chief nursing officer, has put into place.
“For example, if a patient in a nursing home has a broken hip, that patient can bypass the ED and be admitted,” Humphrey explained.
“If there is a physician already in the loop who knows the patient needs hospitalization, then we can get the medical crisis in without going through the ED.
“It’s in place now, but it’s too early to tell the impact. It’s just been within the last two weeks.”
Humphrey said the hospital also is improving the organizational structure of the Emergency Department, such as revamping the charge nurse responsibilities, to making sure there is more leadership on each shift.
The administration had hoped that opening up a primary care facility, Urgent Care, across from the hospital would divert a good deal of the non-emergency patients from the Emergency Department, but that hasn’t happened yet, Humphrey said.
“Patients are (still) using the emergency room for primary care,” he said. “Urgent Care has helped a little, but not to the extent we had wanted, and we don’t know why. We are looking into
why people aren’t taking advantage of it.”
Humphrey admits that one problem in the Emergency Department is communicating with the patients about wait times, but said the hospital hasn’t yet figured out how to do that.
“Sometimes we fall short of a patient expectation,” he said, “however, each patient and/or family member concern is reviewed when brought to our attention.”
If a person has been sitting in the Emergency Department waiting for a while and becomes sicker, the change in symptoms should be reported to the triage nurse to be reassessed, Humphrey said.
The size of the Emergency Department also is being evaluated.
“We saw more than 46,000 patients in the ED last year,” Humphrey said. “We may be undersized, and as we move forward with strategic planning, we will have to take the ED into account.”
Contact Susan Elzey at or (434) 791-7991.
Emergency Department statistics:
• Number of patients seen in the emergency room in 2006 is 40,227 with an average length of stay at five hours and 12 minutes.
• In 2007, the emergency room saw 40,601 patients with the average length of stay four hours and 37 minutes.
(Length of stay is the average of all visits for the acute Emergency Department and Fast Track.)
• Urgent Care is open 40 hours per week. Currently, 80 patients per week are seen there.
Other changes throughout the hospital are in the works:
• “We are looking at making the hospital all private rooms,” Humphrey said. “We are opening up floors that have been vacated because of the new facilities. We are going to go to a more private room concept.”
He said the two new floors that have recently been opened up in the Landon Wyatt Tower are remaining busy.
• “We also have not shut down the open-heart program, and we haven’t closed the loop completely on how we are going to continue with Dr. Lee McCann leaving and with Duke,” he said. “The key thing is that our open-heart program continues with no disruption of clinical care.”
McCann, the medical director of the hospital’s Heart Center of the Piedmont, announced in August that he was leaving to accept a position in Utah.
“The key thing is that we are going to continue, and we will have details on how we will continue, and it will be with Duke,” he said.
• “We’ve also done a lot better job in recruiting nurses in the past three months than the 18 months before,” he said. “We have brought on a nurse recruiter from Moses-Cone in Greensboro, N.C., who graduated from our nursing program.
“She will start in a week or so. She will just focus on and tell nurses in other communities about us.”
• Although the hospital is not fully staffed, he said no hospital is ever fully staffed but constantly has an ebb and flow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Panel: Hospital wait times still lag"

Danville Register & Bee
Monday, January 14, 2008

With a statement of its vision in place, the Healthcare Leadership Council met last week and began to tackle the thorny hospital issue of emergency room wait times at Danville Regional Medical Center.
“While statistics show there recently has been more than a 30 (percent) reduction in wait times, the council challenged the hospital that the wait time from the time a patient reaches the ED until he or she is in a bed still needs improvement,” Council Chairman Don Nodtvedt stated in a news release issued Friday. “The hospital agreed they will continue to address the process changes necessary to reduce the wait time. Additionally, there was agreement that communication with the emergency waiting room patients should be improved.”
The council, formed as part of an effort to improve communication between Danville Regional and the community, also viewed a presentation that reported satisfaction survey results in pools of patients, doctors and associates.
“The hospital is currently sharing these results within its organization, recognizing that while for the most part, they have been improving, there is more work to be done in all three survey pools,” Nodtvedt said.
He explained that three areas have been surveyed either in six- or 12-month intervals by an independent research group, allowing the council to see the trends and results.
The council divides each meeting into at least four topic areas, Nodtvedt said.
“We are developing the council’s vision, mission, and goals,” he said. “We have completed the vision and are working on the mission and goals. We must know what the future should look like, where we are going and how we know when we get there.”
Other topics include issues that have surfaced to council members in the past month that develop a pattern of concern.
“This month it was the emergency department,” he said. “We follow on the progress each subsequent month to ensure closure. Then each month the hospital reports to us on their progress - or lack thereof - in areas of our choice. This month it was satisfaction results of patients, doctors and associates, and the previous month it was the intensive care unit.”
Finally, he said, each council member may submit requests for agenda items.
Jess Judy, a division president for LifePoint Hospitals Inc., is a council member and hospital CEO Jerel Humphrey attends every council meeting, Nodtvedt said, noting that other members of the hospital attend the meetings depending on the agenda.
Nodtvedt said it is still too early to evaluate the progress of the council, but said he is pleased with Humphrey’s commitment.
“At the same time, recognizing that the council has no authority other than political influence, I would like to see faster progress,” Nodtvedt said. “This is the consensus of the council as well. We still need to finish our mission and specifically our goals to see if, in fact, we are making a difference.
“The issues are complex and large, so I do not expect this to be resolved quickly either. I do believe the hospital wants to make changes for the better; they just have to do it.
“Most are process changes, which do take time. Many issues started well before the sale, got worse, and now must be fixed - a tough nut - but I do believe Jerel is up to it.”
Nodtvedt said the changes must not be simply lip service, noting that the council is working hard to ensure that through such means as requesting independent survey results, which he said the hospital had initiated before the request.
The council is the successor to the Citizens Commission, a seven-member body that was appointed last year by Wayne Williams, then a doctor and the mayor of Danville, to address complaints about Danville Regional.
The next meeting of the council is scheduled for mid-February.

Fast facts
Number of patients seen in the Emergency Department for 2007: 40,600
Current wait time in Emergency Department : 4.25 hours
National Emergency Department wait time: 3.12 hours (according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
Source: Danville Regional Medical Center

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Healthcare Leadership Council tackles emergency room"

Danville Register and Bee
Monday, January 14, 2008

The Healthcare Leadership Council met last week to discuss issues concerning the emergency room at Danville Regional Medical Center, according to a release by council chairman Don Nodtvedt.
The mission of the council is to provide communication between Danville Regional Medical Center and the community.
Nodtvedt reported that although statistics show a recent reduction of 30 percent in wait times at the emergency room, the council challenged the hospital that improvement is still needed.
The hospital agreed to address the changes necessary to reduce the wait time and that communication with emergency waiting room patients needs improvement.
Hospital representatives shared a presentation on the satisfaction survey results of patients, doctors and associates. Although the results have shown improvement, the hospital agreed there is more work to be done in all three survey pools.
The council commended the hospital on its honesty.
The next meeting is scheduled for mid-February.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


This one should be of particular interest to readers of this blog. Contact your legislators and give them your feedback on Danny Marshall's bill.

HB1037: Sale or conversion of nonprofit hospitals; public hearing.
§ 32.1-127.4. Certain hospital conversions.
A. The administrator or owner of any nonprofit hospital that is entering into a contract for sale of the hospital to a for-profit entity or planning to restructure to convert such nonprofit hospital to a for-profit hospital, at least six months prior to the execution of a contract for sale or the filing of the articles of incorporation as a for-profit corporation, shall hold a public hearing in the locality where the hospital is located and present the following: (i) any changes to be made in the staffing of the hospital and (ii) a business plan explaining how the sale or conversion will affect the community.
B. If, following the conversion of such nonprofit hospital, a private foundation is established in connection with the for-profit hospital, no previous member of the nonprofit hospital board of directors shall serve on such foundation's board of directors.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Sorry that postings have been down over the past month or so...I've been looking for pertinent news to report and there's been a bit of a drought. Not much coming from the R&B, not much from the Healthcare Leadership Council, and only an ad campaign from DRMC that doesn't really address what the real community issues with LPNT are all about...

But,'s a new year and hopefully there will be some things to talk about. One interesting news item was this from WAKG:

"Danville delegate Danny Marshall doesn't want any more surprises when non-profit hospitals are sold. He's introducing a bill that would require public hearings before not-for-profit hospitals are sold to for-profit companies. That was not the case in 2005 when Lifepoint purchased Danville Regional Medical Center. Marshall says the public was not aware of the deal until Danville Regional had been sold. He says many people, like his mother-in-law, had a vested interest in the local facility. She worked at Dan River Mills for years and gave part of her payroll to support DRMC. Marshall says any public hearing on the sale of a hospital would have to be held before the local governing body. Another bill from Marshall would prevent members of a hospital's board of directors from serving on any subsequent foundation formed through proceeds realized through the sale of that hospital." (WAKG - Jan 8, 2008) me crazy, but it appears that many of us who have been posting on this board that this whole deal went down inappropriately might be on to something.

Anyway, the legislation is three years too late to help Danville, but hopefully Marshall's bill will draw attention to the issues and prevent them from happening again.

You can track Danny's legislation at

Just as an one time it seemed as though the state attorney general had taken an interest in what was happening with the DRMC deal. Whatever happened with that?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Healthcare Leadership Council meets

Healthcare Leadership Council met last night...issued the following press release. Seen any thought-provoking coverage in the local media?


Healthcare Leadership Council meets, establishes its Vision and receives report on ICU Staffing from DRMC

Danville, VA, December 12, 2007 -- Chairman Don Nodtvedt stated: “The primary objective of the meeting was accomplished as we established the council’s simple yet critical vision:

It is the vision of the Healthcare Leadership Council to strengthen the trust and restore the confidence of the community in DRMC.

Subsequent Mission and Objective setting are planned for the January meeting.

The council also received a presentation from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of DRMC. Among other relevant points, the council was apprised of the active recruiting of 6 open positions, currently being covered by 4 agency nurses. This ICU nursing coverage is planned at an hourly contact staffing level which exceeds both the national and regional averages.

The next meeting is scheduled for mid January

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"Saving $4"

Danville Register and Bee
Sunday, December 9, 2007

It’s hard to be mad at Danville Regional Medical Center for trying to buy the cheapest products it can find. Most people do that every time they shop. The trend to buy the cheapest forces all kinds of businesses to work hard to keep their prices low.
The long-term, obvious cost of that low-prices-at-any-cost trend can be seen all over Danville as former Dan River Inc. mill buildings are slowly deconstructed for their bricks and beams. The manufacturing jobs that used to fill those now-empty buildings were shipped overseas. It’s a trend that has affected American workers in all kinds of industries for decades.
The Americans who work at the Hatcher Center, a local sheltered workshop for adults with mental and physical disabilities, are no different.
For the past 15 years, Hatcher Center employees have made hospital gowns for Danville Regional Medical Center. But the hospital is now buying more of its gowns overseas, saving $4 per gown. Orders from the hospital have dropped from 349 per month to 180.
“Representatives of the purchasing department of the hospital came out in September when we increased the price of the gowns and said they couldn’t afford them anymore,” said Chris Wright, executive director of the Hatcher Center. “… They said they would continue to buy them, but not as many.”
In addition to price, the hospital cited a number of new features it wanted for its hospital gowns. In fairness to the hospital, it should be able to buy any kind of gown it wants. In fairness to the Hatcher Center, it could have made the gowns the way the hospital wanted them made - just not at the same price as the overseas suppliers.
“Our wages in the workshop are based on area prevailing wage rates, and we needed to raise the cost just to cover expenses,” Wright said.
It’s been a tough year for Danville Regional Medical Center, and the hospital’s leadership no doubt hates being portrayed as Ebenezer Scrooge on this issue. Danville Regional struggled - but eventually maintained - full accreditation from the Joint Commission, but the time it spent under the cloud of a “preliminary denial of accreditation” hurt its reputation in the community.
The hospital has worked to change its image with its “Healthcare Neighbor to Neighbor” public relations campaign. But the hospital’s owners should know they serve a community that has been devastated by corporate outsourcing and downsizing.
Danville Regional Medical Center could boost its image here by getting the Hatcher Center to continue to make all of its gowns. Danvillians would appreciate that kind of effort, especially in the name of helping out such a good cause.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Q&A - Hospitalists at DRMC

"Q&A: Doctors talk about Danville Regional's hospitalist program"
Danville Register & Bee Saturday, November 10, 2007

A national trend in hospital care is being expanded at Danville Regional Medical Center. Dr. Fran DeChurch was hired last week to start working at the hospital as the director of the hospitalist program.
Hospitalists are hospital-based doctors who care for patients while they are at the hospital, instead of a patient’s regular doctor. When the patient is released from the hospital, he or she returns to the care of the pre-admission doctor. DeChurch and Dr. Michael Caplan, a local physician who helped develop Danville Regional’shospitalist program, recently shed some light on the role of hospitalists in Danville and throughout the nation.

What is a hospitalist?
Caplan: Hospitalists are fully trained doctors who have completed medical school and residency training and graduated with degrees in internal medicine or family practice. Most, but not all, are young university-trained doctors who have recently completed and are very familiar with hospital-based care. Others are doctors who have been in traditional-based medical practices who decide to change to hospital-based care exclusively. They undergo additional training as hospitalistsoften in coordination with the companies that contract their services to hospitals around the nation.
DeChurch: Hospital medicine has become its own specialty. Programs are developing specifically for hospital medicine, much like geriatric medicine evolved as a specialty.
How many hospitalists does Danville Regional have?
DeChurch: With me, there will be four full-time hospitalists and eight to 10 part-time. We will be recruiting four more full-timehospitalists.
How did hospitalist programs begin? (DeChurch was actually in on the ground floor of hospitalist programs beginning in the U.S.)
DeChurch: When I finished my residency in 1990-91, the government was looking at how many hours interns could work. They saw there were going to be limits on the patient loads and hours on interns coming down the road, and wondered how they were going to handle all those patients.We developed a ‘chief service’ to take care of the unassigned patients. Lo and behold, that was the beginning of the hospitalists, although the term was not coined until the mid-1990s. It’s kind of neat to know I was in on the ground floor.
How did the hospitalist program begin at Danville Regional?
Caplan: The impetus for developing a hospitalist program started in early 2004 when a request was made from the medical staff to the administration of Danville Regional. A special committee was formed to research national hospitalist organizations and recommend companies through which these contract services could be provided. The conversion to a hospitalist-based care plan at the hospital was driven by a national trend that has existed for many years in other hospitals across the country as well as neighboring cities in the region. The hospital implemented its hospitalist program contracted through Em-Care in April of 2006 and has now changed services providers to Cogent. Both of these companies were highly recommended by the initial search committee and medical staff advisors.
What are the benefits of having hospitalists?
Caplan: The Emergency Department likes hospitalists because there is a doctor available in the hospital to see ED patients throughout the day and night. The alternative is to call a doctor out of his home or office practice, which can result in a delay in patient care, longer ER wait times and reduced patient satisfaction. The benefits of a well-run and staffed hospital service is having full-time inpatient care services, less variability in patient care, more timely discharges, improved documentation and more prompt inpatient consultation services. The traditional practice of medicine in this community without a hospitalist service results in some doctors working in excess of 110 hours a week.
Why do doctors become hospitalists?
DeChurch: I enjoy it; it’s a different type of medicine. It is more intense. To be in the hospital anymore, you have to be pretty sick. (A hospitalist) can truly help people.
Caplan: Doctors become hospitalists because they enjoy the challenges and intensity of hospitalized patients. They are highly trained and familiar with this patient type. Becoming a hospitalist removes a doctor from the obligation of running a private practice outside a hospital setting and provides good work hours and an improved lifestyle. The salary is also competitive compared to the traditional medical-based practice. Hospitalists generally work four 12-hour shifts a week or 16 total shifts a month.
How has the hospitalist program been accepted by the staff and patients at Danville Regional?
Caplan: The program has been accepted by most, but not all of the medical staff. (But) this is the trend throughout the country and not unique to Danville Regional. There are many doctors who use or want to use the hospital service as it grows to accommodate their hospitalized patients. These physicians are under personal, lifestyle, financial and practice pressure to focus their time to either hospital inpatient or clinical outpatient care but not both. (Caplan said patients initially had a reluctance to see a hospitalist, which he does not think is unusual because they have grown accustomed to the traditional care of seeing the same doctor inside and outside the hospital setting.) Sometimes the reluctance has come from a lack of understanding of what a hospitalist is or what role a hospitalist plays in the delivery of health care in coordination with their private doctor. Patients, however, come to realize that they still get good care, have access to specialists and stay only three to four days in the hospital with an average admission before being discharged. They also come to realize that they have much greater access to their private doctors outside the hospital due to the time that is freed up by the hospitalist.
Who are the patients the hospitalists see?
DeChurch: We admit all unassigned patients through the emergency room and those are without community physicians. From the time it is determined that the patient will be hospitalized, that patient becomes our responsibility as attending physicians. (Recently, the physicians with Internal Medicine Associates and Piedmont Internal Medicine decided to turn their inpatient care over to the hospitalists.)
What if a patient needs a specialist?
DeChurch: There will always be specialists available, such as surgeons, orthopedists and cardiology. A hospitalist is like a cruise director, making sure everything and everyone is where they need to be. We use consultants if a patient needs one.
How widespread is the use of hospitalists?
DeChurch: Hospitalists are found everywhere now. We interviewed someone (Monday) who is a hospitalist in a 25-bed hospital.
Caplan: The needs for hospitalists are greatly exceeded by the supply. Current statistics put the need for new hospitalists to serve the current national demand at 15,000 more doctors than are now available (with) need growing each year.
Who is DeChurch, and what hospitalist experience does she have?
Caplan: She is a nationally known and respected hospitalist leader with more than 15 years of hospitalist experience and eight years of experience as a hospitalist program director. Her leadership will add a great deal of quality and depth to the overall program. Her husband is Dr. Hugh Fraser, the medical director of the hospital’s blood donor center. She said she accepted the job at Danville Regional because “there is a certain atmosphere other hospitals don’t have, and the physicians were happy.” Dr. Frances DeChurch, was the Hospitalist Service Director at Annie Penn Hospital before coming to Danville.
What will she do first?
DeChurch: My main focus will be recruiting. Then come back in six months and see what I will fix. My job will be making sure we have a cohesive team and interfacing with the community, physicians and departments so people won’t think their doctors have abandoned them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Healthcare Leadership do we get updates?

Does anyone the Healthcare Leadership Council going to offer a public record of its meetings and a method by which the members of the council can be contacted by the public?

From WAKG's website:
(DANVILLE) -- The Healthcare Leadership Council held its second meeting this week. That's the group appointed to work with LifePoint to identify and address any health care issues that arise at Danville Regional Medical Center. Chairman Don Nodtvedt says the council was especially pleased to receive the report from the Joint Commission, accrediting the hospital facility as well as its home health care program. He says they see it as "tangible and independent validation" from an outside source of the worth of DRMC in the community. Nodtvedt says the primary goal of the council is to work with the hospital to regain the community's trust in the facility."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Happy birthday!

One year later…

Interesting that DRMC made this blog off-limits to employees. Perhaps I should take some pleasure that this effort is viewed as a threat by corporate...but then again, one reality of the situation is that so many posters here keep saying that we are short-staffed, yet there is obviously a lot of time spent here on "company time". That doesn't compute.

Regardless, things are happening at DRMC that have the potential to change things for the better. The biggest opportunity that we have is the new CEO, Mr. Humphrey. It’s been my experience that he is starting out by showing an interest in the departments and the individual employees that we haven’t seen in some time. I stand by my thought that, regardless of what our past experience has been, we need to give this guy a chance to start fresh and make a difference. Other changes in leadership at a couple of levels will have an impact on the way we do things internally.

There has been a lack of public news about DRMC in recent weeks…perhaps due to the election, as some posters have suggested. Whatever the case, I’ve slowed down on news postings simply because there haven’t been real substantive things to talk about. The downside of that is that it leaves room for unbridled gossip and supposition, but we’re never going to change those that will visit here for that purpose only.

So….as the blog reaches its first anniversary (who woulda thunk) with 44,000 visits and 140,000 page views, I have started to take a hard look at the purpose that it has served over the past month and what its role should be in the future. The idea presented itself, briefly, that we had gotten mired in the mud and it should be put out of its misery. Not sure if that’s totally the case…there is still value here.

So stay tuned, and we’ll see where we go from here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

"It's official: Danville Regional is accredited"

Danville Register & Bee
Friday, October 19, 2007

Danville Regional Medical Center announced Thursday that the Joint Commission has notified the hospital that it is in full compliance with all applicable standards.
The notice means that Danville Regional is now fully accredited, according to Leslie Smith, director of community relations and marketing at the hospital.
“On Aug. 23, the Joint Commission announced that the preliminary denial of accreditation had been removed and the hospital remained an accredited organization with requirements for improvement,” Smith said Thursday. “The hospital was required to submit an action plan to the accreditation committee this month, to address any remaining deficiencies. The committee met earlier this week and announced that the action plan had been accepted and all standards were in compliance.
“The acceptance of the action plan by the Joint Commission means that DRMC is now fully accredited.”
This accreditation is based on the 2007 survey and will extend through at least the beginning of 2010.
Smith said that the difference between the August accreditation and Thursday’s announcement is an important one.
“In the past, we’ve said DRMC ‘remains’ accredited,” she said. “Technically, the decision was still pending for this extended accreditation until the accreditation committee met this week. The previous accreditation noted on the Web site was a result of the 2004 survey with this now changed to the February 2007 survey.”
Smith said that, although it seems like a small change, it really is quite significant to have the accreditation finalized and official.
“This is great news for the community, and for the associates and physicians who provide care in our hospital,” Betty Jo Foster, chairman of the Danville Regional Board of Trustees, said in a news release. “This action clearly demonstrates that Danville Regional is providing great patient care and is a compliment to hospital administration and all our clinicians and care-giving staff. Danville Regional is a vital community asset, and we look forward to remaining so for a long time to come.”
Ruth McDaniel, interim chief executive officer, added, “The associates and physician staff have worked diligently for this recognition from the Joint Commission.”
The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just think how far a really tiny slice of $200+ million would go...

The high cost
Danville Register and Bee
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Free Clinic of Danville has always relied on caring volunteers from the medical community to help people who can’t afford health care. Washington politicians may debate the health care issue, but at the corner of Ridge and Patton streets, good people work to help those who need medical treatment they can’t afford.
Recently, though, the Free Clinic struggled to decide what to do with a grant that in the recent past had allowed it to treat more people.
The Virginia Health Care Foundation awarded a $39,375 grant to the clinic to pay one-third of the cost of a nurse practitioner.
“The grant allowed us to significantly increase the services provided to the community and increased the number of patients we saw by approximately three times,” Brent Saunders, president of the Free Clinic’s board, said late last month. “However, the prescription costs rose significantly and with the increasing salary we were responsible for, it was a perfect storm brewing.”
That “perfect storm” was the clinic’s costs, which were rising beyond what it could afford on its budget. When the last nurse practitioner left in August, the position was left vacant. It will likely stay that way, and for good reason.
“The board feels that sustained funding for the full-time nurse practitioner position is needed in order to assure the long-term financial viability of the clinic,” Saunders said.
That’s the only way to survive in today’s health care economy, even if it means not hiring someone who could help treat more sick people in this community.
In the short term, many of those people are being hurt or, at the very least, inconvenienced. But if the Free Clinic can’t survive financially, more of them will be hurt.
One possible solution would be to seek a steady source of money from the Danville Regional Foundation, the group formed with the proceeds from the sale of Danville Regional Medical Center. With enough money from the foundation, the Free Clinic could afford to not only pay the nurse practitioner’s salary, but cover the rising costs of medical supplies and prescription drugs.
This community’s most vulnerable residents need this problem solved. Anything that can help the Free Clinic of Danville treat more patients is going to be a good thing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Q&A with the new DRMC CEO

From the DRMC "News & Views" website:

New CEO Jerel Humphrey Answers Questions

How did DRMC find you?
I had been working with an executive search firm, and several years ago, my oldest son was looking at colleges. He’s studying to be an engineer and we toured Virginia Tech and my wife and I fell in love with that part of the country. We said that if the right opportunity came about, and it took several years for that right opportunity as my son is a junior at Texas Tech, we would love to locate to this part of the country. We love Virginia.

What made you want to leave where you are and take on this role?
I have been in a big city for a long time. I am looking forward to living in a city like Danville, where I can be a part of the community; where I don’t have to spend so much time on the road commuting and where the hospital plays a central role in the community.

What is the first issue you will be dealing with?
I plan to do a lot of listening to all I come in contact with - the physicians, associates, volunteers, chaplains, board members and the community. I want to hear what they have to say about their roles, their interests and how they view the hospital.

What appeals to you about this job?
The thing that most appeals to me about this job is the fact that I will be able to help the loyal and committed team members at DRMC continue to build on their strengths and the strengths of this hospital and to provide greater services to the community.

What are the responsibilitites of your job?
I view my primary responsibility as providing strong communications to all of the critical audiences at DRMC - communicating with physicians, associates, volunteers and chaplains the plans and priorities for the hospital. It also requires providing leadership within the community and with the board of trustees. You can’t over communicate with either the internal or external audiences. Another responsibility will be to uphold standards, policies and procedures within the hospital.

What is the nursing staff situation at the hospital?
I am looking forward to workng with new CNO Becky Logan and all of the nursing staff at DRMC. We will work together to continue delivering high quality patient care. Additionally, I am very impressed with DRMC’s School of Nursing. That is a great assett that very few hospitals in the country have.

How did you get into health care administration?

I actually got involved as a junior in college by working in a local hospital as an orderly. I would assist nurses in various funtions throughout the hospital. I had actual bedside experience with patients. My appreciation and interest in hospitals evolved from there.

What do you think about all of the problems of the past CEOs at DRMC?
I can’t speak to the past, since I wasn’t here and wasn’t a part of that. However, what I can tell you is that I am committed to communicating and being available to all of the key constituencies at DRMC, the associates, physicians, volunteers and chaplains as well as the community leaders in the Dan River region. I’m planning on doing a lot of listening to learn more about DRMC and how we can continue to provide great services and continue to improve our service to our communities.

What from your past experiences will help you at DRMC?
I’ve worked at a variety of sizes of hospitals from a 600-bed facility to a 72-bed facility. I’ve been in the healthcare field for 28 years, and I think all of my experiences have helped me grow and provide the leadership qualities I believe I possess.

The previous CEO said he was bringing his family and decided not to. What if your family doesn’t want to relocate?
I am starting at DRMC on October 29 and looking forward to beginning my job. My family plans to join me during the Christmas holidays. I have a daughter who is a junior in high school. It will be easier for her to leave at that point in the semester.

What do you think are your biggest strengths?
I believe in the concept of building strong teams. I will provide leadership, the ability to listen and help solve problems, but at the end of the day, it’s teamwork that is needed at a hospital and any organization to be successful. My mission is to help our associates, physicians, volunteers and chaplains feel good about what they do on a daily basis and help empower them to be the best ambassadors for the hospital.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Healthcare Leadership Council, wherefore art thou?

It's been one month since the article announcing the Healthcare Leadership Council appeared in the Register & Bee.!news!opinion

So...where do we stand?
They've met, we know that much. No coverage in the local media and, unlike the Citizens Commission, there is no central location to obtain minutes or information about their activities, their findings or their results. With the pivotal figure behind the Leadership Council, Mayor Williams, leaving town, where does that leave this effort?

Does anyone know who's on first?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mayor/Doctor Williams leaving town

Danville Mayor Wayne Williams said he will step down

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Danville Mayor Wayne Williams said he will step down from City Council to take a job in Georgia.
Williams has accepted a position with Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Ga.
"It is an exceptional opportunity at an expanding hospital that includes administrative responsibilities as well as a surgical practice. I was not looking for the change, but was honored, and surprised, when approached for the position. I will miss my family, friends and especially the people of Danville that make this such a great city," Williams said in a press release.
Williams was elected to Danville City Conncil in 1998. He was named vice mayor in 2000 and was elected mayor in 2006.