Dan Bonk has been president of Milwaukee's St. Francis Hospital only since Aug. 9, but already he knows what needs to be done: Get more market share and more nurses.
A shortage of nurses has hurt operations at the 260-bed Roman Catholic hospital. Before he arrived, Bonk said, a shortage forced the hospital to temporarily shut down more than 20 beds.
"We've had a hard time getting nurses," he said. The hospital has reopened beds as more nurses have been hired.
Bonk is seeking to make St. Francis more attractive to nurses, said Candice Owley, president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, a West Allis-based union that represents all 1,400 St. Francis employees.
St. Francis has about 400 nurses on staff and a 12% to 15% vacancy rate, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Owley said a tight labor market is making the situation tougher for St. Francis, which began losing nurses in 1998 because of a labor dispute over nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.
Eventually, a mediator was brought in to help the two sides resolve their differences, she said. The resolution included adding nurses, active supervisors and support staff on some shifts, she said.
Owley likes what she has seen from Bonk so far. "He seems to be very willing to listen to our members (and) to us as an organization to really try to figure out how to work with us to restore the community confidence in (St. Francis) that it delivers good care and the confidence in it that this is a place people will want to come and work," she said.
Bonk, 45, came to St. Francis from 295-bed Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he was president and chief administrative officer. Methodist also has unionized nurses.
Bonk replaced Jerrold Maki, who ran St. Francis as interim president after the former president, Greg Banaszynski, resigned in July 1999.
Maki is a partner in the Peterson Network, a Perrysburg, Ohio-based firm that provides interim executives to hospitals and other healthcare organizations.
St. Francis is part of five-hospital Covenant Healthcare System in Milwaukee. The system also has a new leader. Paul Dell Umo, it's president and CEO, joined the system in June, replacing Thomas Sheahan, who retired in June 1999.
Part of Bonk's charge is to build market share at
St. Francis, one of 11 acute-care hospitals in Milwaukee. Last year, St. Francis lost almost $2.5 million on total revenue of more than $106 million, according to information supplied by the hospital to the Wisconsin Bureau of Health Information.
To help build market share, the hospital recently opened a new vascular lab and inked a contract with a new radiology group. It will break ground in October on a $6.5 million outpatient cancer center in suburban Milwaukee. And Bonk will be working to improve physician referrals to St. Francis. One way to do that, Bonk said, is to meet with physicians and find out what concerns they have with the hospital, such as a lack of some technical expertise and equipment.
Although the hospital has more than 800 physicians on staff, many of those doctors have admitting privileges at as many as five other hospitals. Bonk said he hopes to win a larger share of physician referrals.
Bonk said he is confident of what lies ahead for him at St. Francis.
"My role is to help the team that's already in here to bring St. Francis to where it needs to be," Bonk said.