G. Owen Bailey doesn't deserve this award. That's what Bailey, president and chief executive officer of 150-bed Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Ala., says. Really.
"We have a terrific team. My role is to hopefully help set some direction but to get out of the way. This award ought to go to those people," says the 39-year-old Bailey. "The leader shouldn't be the one jumping out to take the credit. I think you've got to give the credit where the work is taking place."
The members of Bailey's board think he deserves plenty of credit for what has taken place at Thomas Hospital since he took the top job in December 1992. In the board's letter nominating Bailey for the award, the members credit him with managing rapid growth and expansion at the hospital on Mobile Bay's east side.
The biggest project was a 100,000-square-foot addition to the hospital. The addition houses a same-day services center, a 10-bed intensive-care unit, a birth center and a skilled-nursing unit, among other services. Another large project was the conversion of a shuttered Wal-Mart store in nearby Daphne, Ala., into an 80,000-square-foot outpatient center-dubbed the "Well-Mart" by a local newspaper-that offers ambulatory surgery, an urgent-care center, diagnostic services and physician offices.
Thomas Hospital also has expanded its workforce dramatically since 1990, with the number of physicians on staff increasing to 231 from 76 and the number of employees climbing to 938 from 383.
"Despite the growth," the board wrote, "being on a first-name basis with employees remains a priority for Owen. Utilization has almost doubled with adjusted patient days growing from 27,225 in 1990 to 53,093 in fiscal year 2000."
The hospital has rebounded from fiscal 1999, when it lost $2.1 million on $46.1 million in net patient revenue, with the system projecting net income of $450,000 on $57.5 million in revenue for fiscal 2001, which ends Sept. 30. Thomas Hospital has cut its cost per adjusted discharge to a projected $4,100 for 2001 from $4,327 in 1999.
Bailey earned a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration from Auburn (Ala.) University in 1985. He moved on to the health administration master's degree program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, earning his advanced degree in 1988. After college, he interned at West Georgia Medical Center, LaGrange, and spent a year as director of outreach services at East Alabama Medical Center, Opelika. The hospital's president, Terry Andrus, immediately recognized Bailey's communication skills.
"He has a real good ability to make people feel real at ease and comfortable with him," Andrus says. Bailey considers Andrus a mentor, and the two still speak on the phone about once a week.
All that training was important to his job in Fairhope, where he started as associate administrator in 1990, but what Bailey did growing up on the opposite side of Mobile Bay was just as important. He worked a series of part-time jobs at 502-bed Mobile (Ala.) Infirmary Medical Center during high school and summer breaks from Auburn. He transported patients, stocked the receiving department and even handled valet parking.
"I just kind of learned it from the inside out," he says. "I guess you learn how complex a hospital is. I remember being struck early on that a hospital is like its own little world, and just being struck by the complexity of it. I learned early on how much it meant to me for someone in an authority position to even say hello or ask my opinion. That stuck with me a lot."