Mountain View Voice

News - January 7, 2011

2011 looks brighter for El Camino

'Guarded optimism,' as challenges remain in 2011

by Nick Veronin

Ken Graham posed the question in an open letter published in the fall 2010 issue of his organization's Health Beat newsletter: "Is El Camino Hospital's glass half full or half empty?"

For Graham, the hospital's CEO, the answer to that question seems to be half full. Looking forward, the executive wrote that El Camino will be in the black by June, the end of its current fiscal year — a prospect that seemed far off when the hospital started its financial year expecting to lose millions of dollars from operations.

Heading into 2011, the hospital's interim chief financial officer, Bob Dvorak wrote in an e-mail that he held "guarded optimism of achieving our budgeted operating income targets by the last quarter of fiscal year 2011."

In the six months between now and then, through the Accelerating Continuous Excellence — or ACE — initiative, the hospital will look at ways to streamline its operations. Additionally, El Camino recently assembled a 17-member advisory council composed of community members living within the hospital district. This committee will provide feedback to the hospital's management and board of directors, becoming a direct link between the health care organization and the people it serves.

One example of such a change comes from the orthopedics department at El Camino's Los Gatos campus. There, 16 orthopedic physicians will co-manage all inpatient and outpatient services in an agreement that encourages the doctors to look directly at ways to improve quality and efficiency simultaneously.

"With physicians having a vested interest in the management partnership, this model provides the incentives, the flexibility and the resources needed to improve quality and meet demand in an era of cost restraints," said Pat Wolfram, a site hospital administrator for the Los Gatos campus, in a story on the new arrangement in the Health Beat newsletter.

In another effort at efficiency the hospital's board of directors recently approved a new payroll and time management system, which will help eliminate redundancies in labor, cut overtime costs and greatly reduce the amount or paper the hospital consumes. The current payroll system uses paper time cards and scheduling sheets that must be processed by people. The new system will eliminate all of that work and reduce the likelihood of scheduling errors.

There are kinks that remain unresolved heading into 2011 — namely those between the hospital and El Camino nurses.

The nurses' union is unhappy with a new contract imposed by the board of directors in November. The union opposed the contract on the grounds that it cut too deeply into many benefits the nurses had previously enjoyed. Nonetheless, the board, citing the need to control cost, voted to move forward with the contract, leaving nurses "extremely unhappy" moving into 2011, according to union president and registered nurse Pat Briggs.

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