When Lloyd Ford first walked in the door of 135-bed Muhlenberg Community Hospital in 2004 as the new chief executive officer, the income statement showed five straight years of losses, with the latest in excess of $1.8 million. The ambulance service alone was losing $480,000 a year. There was a war going on between one group of physicians and the board. And maybe worst of all, Muhlenberg was the last hospital in the Greenville, Ky., area that patients wanted to go to.
Things looked bad. But chatting with nurses in the hallway, Ford heard words of hope. We love this place, one said.
Thats how I knew I had something to work with, Ford says. He also had a strong medical staff, despite the rancor. We had all the great primary-care docs here. Ill put them up against anyone in the state of Kentucky. I just needed to bring them together.
He set about building a sense of teamwork, not only among the staff and the physicians but also between the hospital and the community. Frequent town-hall meetings kept residents abreast of changes at the hospital and gave them a forum for complaints. Internally, he introduced strategies from the Studer Group and Press Ganey Associates to increase quality as well as patient and employee satisfaction.
Nowadays, the picture has changed. Ford turned around the finances during his first year, going from red ink to black, and hes increased the margin every year since.
He eliminated 73 full-time positions without resorting to layoffs, and has recruited 11 physicians. Surgeries have increased from 100 a month to 287, and a reinstated obstetrics department now has 300 deliveries a year.
The emergency department also has been expanded, and the hospital has a new magnetic-resonance imaging unit.
Until he came to Muhlenberg, Ford had never been involved with a money-losing institution. He started out as an engineer, designing buildings for the federal government, until an encounter with a hospital chief executive led to an operations job at a Michigan healthcare system. He had worked a series of healthcare jobs, most recently as chief operating officer at 138-bed Havasu Regional Medical Center in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., a high-margin, for-profit facility.
Ford is looking toward an entire new building in the next few years, with expanded services like a joint center, a catheterization laboratory, and a womens and childrens center.
I want to offer every service except traumaall the things people are driving an hour or more to get.