Driscoll sees ups, downs at Maine facility
Trustees of the Year 2008 - Honorable Mention: Small Healthcare Organizations
John Driscoll, 83, has stuck with 25-bed Down East Community Hospital in Machias, Maine, through good and bad times—for both the institution and himself.
“He is there almost every day, even on Saturday and Sunday,” even after a number of illnesses have left him usually reliant on a wheelchair, says David Rioux, chief of the medical staff.
When Driscoll joined the board of trustees of the rural hospital in 2001, it was in the midst of crisis. It failed its Joint Commission accreditation survey in 2001. Income plummeted from about $60,000 on total revenue of $20 million in 2001 to a loss of $1.3 million on revenue of $21 million in 2002.
Meanwhile, the board, senior executives and medical staff were in an uproar over whether the facility should become a critical-access hospital, which in 2002 would have required downsizing from 38 licensed beds to 15. (It became a critical-access institution in 2005—but only after the federal government increased the maximum number of permissible licensed beds to 25.)
Not surprisingly, three senior executives quit in August 2002.
“That was the low point,” says Driscoll, a retired lawyer, who moved to Maine from New York 19 years ago. “We had to get to work to clean things up.” Wayne Dodwell, who became the new chief executive officer, says, “What John brought was the ability to promote relationship-building and to promote teamwork. … He is a real people person.”
The board, employees and medical staff made a number of changes to improve financial and clinical performance. They sliced $1.6 million from expenses and renegotiated contracts with vendors, physicians and third-party payers. Most important, they worked diligently to fix the quality problems that had caused the hospital to fail its accreditation survey.
Among the changes were a new quality-improvement program in which clinical departments are measured against both internal and national benchmarks, and a revamped medical-staff credentialing program.
When Driscoll became chairman in 2004, the board and management focused on increasing revenue. For example, Down East has recruited 22 physicians since 2004, bringing medical staff membership to 43.
The changes worked. In the hospital’s first year back in the black in 2003, it earned $486,000 on revenue of $22 million, and those figures rose to operating income of $2.4 million on revenue of $33 million in 2006.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.