Sunday, September 11, 2011

Q&A: Hospital chief Tom Ozburn says South Davidson gets bum rap

Last month, the large, bold-red sign that identifies the emergency department at Southern Hills Medical Center was replaced with one with the Spanish word “Emergencia” next to the English version.

It’s one example of efforts to make the HCA-owned hospital a more welcoming place to the fast-growing, diverse community near its campus off Nolensville Pike in southeast Davidson County.

Under the 3½-year reign of Chief Executive Tom Ozburn, Southern Hills also has been trying to shed its image as an aging, 30-year-old facility that in recent years had been known for cutting back services.

Now, it’s adding services again, such as a new inpatient rehab unit, and opening outposts including a new medical office building near the Williamson County line.

Ozburn hopes those expansions and improvements to the exterior of buildings on Southern Hills’ main campus make it a more appealing place to seek medical care for the broader market it serves, including the fast-growing Antioch area.

Ozburn, previously chief operating officer of Southern Hills’ sister hospital Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, spoke with Tennessean reporter Getahn Ward about efforts to boost the image of the hospital, capitalize on its presence in a growing community and take steps to get ready for health-care reform.

What was your No. 1 challenge coming here, and how have you tackled it?

In the past several years, Southern Hills had lost some service lines and key physicians. We wanted people to know that we were here to stay, weren’t closing down (and) would actually be growing. (Our goal) was really to create a culture and a vision for the hospital and its medical staff.

Every hospital has both positive and negative feelings about them. Unfortunately, there is a very inaccurate stereotype associated with this section of Davidson County — that it’s a bad, poor section of town. With that ... comes negative stereotypes sometimes.

One of the first things that I wanted to do was to work hard at addressing that and really changing the image. (I want) ... people to see South Davidson for what it is — one of the fastest-growing areas of Nashville that is culturally diverse and made up of hard-working individuals. One of the images we were getting here is that we were an old facility. We’ve invested so much in trying to improve the exterior appearance.

What are you doing to capitalize on the location?

We’re branching out services and expanding our borders. So, as opposed to expecting everyone to come to us on campus, we’re putting our new offices off campus into the communities where people live and work, (to make) health care more convenient.

A great example would be our new TriStar Medical Plaza building at the corner of Concord and Nolensville roads. There, we have a full imaging center with a dedicated women’s center, family practice, internal medicine, general dentistry, orthopaedics, cardiology, neurology, OB/GYN and physical therapy (among a list of services).

And then, we have another one planned for Antioch.

Antioch remains a very important area for us. We pull a lot of patients from that area. I’ve been meeting with (Metro) council members from that area and residents to talk ... about bringing those services. Our two biggest ZIP codes for Southern Hills Medical Center are 37211 and 37013 — that represents more than 150,000 people who live in those two areas.

What have you done to better serve the large Latino community near your hospital?

We’re members of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and we participated with David Lipscomb in an event called Opening Doors that was about engaging the Latino community in the different service sectors.

From that meeting, in partnership with United Neighborhood Health Services, we formed the Wallace Road Clinic on-site here, which is a sliding-fee-scale clinic available for people who don’t have insurance. And then, if you look at our new ER sign or ER canopy, it is a bilingual one. It says “Emergency” and “Emergencia,” the (Spanish) translation. It tells the people in our community they are welcome.

The health conditions that are more prevalent in the Latino community here are the same as (nationally). That is a need that arises around obesity, diabetes and heart disease. What we try to focus on is connecting this group — Latinos — into the medical community with primary-care physicians. That was one of the reasons for the development of the Wallace Road Clinic.

What does Southern Hills want to be known for from a branding perspective?

As a general, medical-surgical facility where you can receive high-quality, comprehensive care close to where you live or work. That includes focusing on neurology, rehabilitation, orthopaedics and cardiology.

We opened our new, 12-bed inpatient rehab unit June 1 and will become stroke-certified by the year’s end. You’re going to see us expand our orthopaedics operations in conjunction with physicians from Premier Orthopaedics and also our other orthopaedic surgeons on campus.

Describe your inpatient rehab unit’s goals and the need for such services here.

It’s a 12-bed unit, and we’re running an average census of nine (beds). Some days we are completely full. Basically, it says there was a huge demand for inpatient rehab services on the southern corridor of Nashville. It is for individuals that meet criteria for an extended stay, and who need more advanced rehabilitation prior to going home.

These patients typically have had stroke-related neurological conditions or advanced orthopaedic procedures.

What are you doing to better manage the flow of patients in your emergency room?

Our ER will do about 38,000 to 39,000 visits a year, and (among) things we focus on has been decreased wait times from the time a patient comes in to the time they’re seen by a physician. We’ve done that through the use of expanded physician and nurse practitioner coverage. And then, we’ve tried to partner with our local EMS (Emergency Medical Service) or ambulance drivers to ensure that we’re responsive to their needs.

What keeps you up at night as a hospital executive?

Probably the same things most hospital CEOs consider. No. 1: Am I making a difference in my community, and are the strategies we’re putting forth leading to the overall improvement of health?

And then second is taking care of the workforce — the people who dedicate their lives to health care on a daily basis.

Southern Hills saw some backlash a few years ago for deciding to stop delivering babies. What are your current plans?

In 2008, we had a group of OB/GYN doctors covering our hospital and StoneCrest (Medical Center in Smyrna). When their group size diminished, they were no longer able to cover two hospitals, and we were forced to close our obstetrics department.

However, we are currently partnering with local OB/GYNs to bring OB services back to Southern Hills on an outpatient basis, and we will be partnering with Women’s Hospital at Centennial for deliveries.

So, a lady will be able to come on our campus for all of her prenatal work and see an OB/GYN here, and when it’s time for delivery she can go to our Women’s Hospital. We’re doing this because we still feel there’s an unmet need for OB/GYN services in our community.

Southern Hills trimmed 13 jobs last spring as part of broader cutbacks at Nashville-area HCA/TriStar hospitals. What was behind those layoffs?

We all have to respond to decreasing reimbursements and ensure that our operations are fiscally sound. It is never an easy decision to make.

What do you do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time with (nonprofit) commitments that I feel personally attached to — one being Men of Valor, a prison ministry, and the other being Soles4Souls. And then I like to spend time with my wife and two children.