The interim CEO is Suzanne Richards, 51, a roving hospital consultant and former nurse with an MBA and a master's in public health. Among the roles her five-member team is filling is chief clinical and administrative officer, a job Sheila Senn recently quit after less than two years.
Although initially excited about a turnaround project, "I did not feel I could be an effective leader there," Senn says, citing a churn in chief financial officers and a lack of available financial data and other resources.
Richards is credited with reviving a seven-hospital system in Southern California. At her last assignment, a Philadelphia hospital with characteristics similar to Community First's, she lasted only a few months. The Philadelphia Inquirer said she was fired by the private-equity owners. She says she can't comment on her departure, on the advice of a lawyer she's hired while contemplating litigation.
Richards considers her role here open-ended, she says. She acknowledges staffing operating rooms "is very tough" for hospitals in general, and relying on outside vendors of temporary medical personnel can be "very expensive." (Fishman says suppliers have balked because of unpaid bills.)
In some areas, Richards says, the hospital has been able to attract younger doctors, adding, "Looking from the outside, I'd say the equipment is pretty good."
The hospital is forming "telemed" relationships with other hospitals, allowing doctors at Lurie Children's Hospital to examine pediatric patients and physicians at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago to treat stroke victims. There's also a midwife and obstetrics collaboration with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
D'Silva, the chief of surgery, says: "The spirit is still there. If you look at what the alternative could have been, it says a lot. We bought five years. Maybe this is the best we can do in this environment."
"Medical center's traumas illustrate struggle of all Medicaid-dependent hospitals" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.