HealthCasts Season 2 Kickoff:  CEO David Verinder on the Role of a Community Hospital

HealthCasts Season 2 Kickoff: CEO David Verinder on the Role of a Community Hospital


(logo chimes) – [Narrator] From Sarasota
Memorial, this is HealthCasts. A healthy dose of information
from experts you can trust. – Hi everybody, welcome to
HealthCasts, I’m Heidi Godman. In this episode, we’re
going to be talking about public versus private hospitals,
what’s the difference? And more importantly,
what does the difference mean to you as a patient? We’ll also find out more about the man who leads Sarasota Memorial
Health Care System. We’ll find out about his background and we’ll also find out what’s
influenced his approach. Our guest is David Verinder,
the President and CEO of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. Welcome to the program. – Thrilled to be here today. – Okay, lets get right to it. Tell us about the difference between a public and a private hospital. – You have both, in this country we have not-for-profit hospitals and
we have for-profit hospitals. A not-for-profit hospital really is there to serve a community and the
medical needs of that community whatever those may be. We look at that all the time and determine what those needs are and
go through a strategic planning process to address those. A private hospital, or
a for-profit hospital, really is more of a
sometimes a niche player. They play a vital role to the community and a lot of times very good hospitals. But at the end of the day they’re there to serve the community
along with the shareholders that own the hospital. – SMH is one of the
largest public hospitals in the nation, can you give
us an idea of how vast it is? What are the services and how
far does its reach extend? – We’ve grown quite a bit over the years. We have a 95-year history at this point and really had some exploding growth over the last few years, we’re
up to around 839 beds today. About a billion dollars of revenue, our services are pretty vast, it’s much easier to tell
you what we don’t do than what we do do, we
don’t have a burn center, so we coordinate with local,
with a regional burn center for that and we don’t do transplants. Once again we coordinate
that with a regional approach on that, but everything
else we pretty much do. Our reach goes from, I always say, south of the Skyway Bridge
to north of Fort Myers. But quite honestly we have
international patients that come in from all parts of the globe. – SMH has experienced
just tremendous growth since you took over in 2014 as CEO, and for a private hospital
that might be seen as really just a way to make more money but it’s different for a
public hospital, isn’t it? Tell us a little bit about the safety net. – Sure, so we once again,
we provide a little bit of everything, so we take
all comers, so whether you have insurance or not, whether
you’re a Medicaid patient or not, we take commercial
insurance, we take everyone. We provide services that are traditionally not very profitable or money losers. For example, our NICU
unit, high investment, low to zero or negative margin in that. Our trauma center which sees a
tremendous amount of patients a year and various other
things, psychiatric services that others probably don’t do because there’s not a return
there but the return to us is the service to our community. – So you have to be
there as that safety net to provide all those
services for everybody here in the community and
you’re always going to need to keep up with the
growth of the community and it has really grown so
much in the last 30 years, I think the population has doubled. But the suncoast still
has this small hometown kind of feel and I’ll bet that’s something that you can relate to, I
know you spent some time growing up outside of Houston, Texas. But then, that’s a big
area, but then you spent a portion of your time growing
up in a small community in Louisiana, tell us about that. – Well I grew up in a small college town, it was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
which is also the capital of Louisiana and Baton Rouge
has grown tremendously, particularly after the Katrina hurricane hit New Orleans and a
lot of that ended up, the population from New
Orleans ended up there. I consider myself from a small town, certainly Baton Rouge is a
lot different than Sarasota. We fell in love with
this city really back in the early 2000’s and when we
had the chance to move here back in 2006, I jumped at it. We love the community, we love the feel, we’re fans
– Did it remind you of home? – In a lot of ways it
does remind you of home. – No Creole food? – There’s no Creole food, the
seafood’s a little different here than in south
Louisiana but it’s amazing. – What’s your favorite Creole food? – I would just go back with
regular crawfish anything. – Crawfish anything– – Crawfish Etouffee or anything like that. – Jambalaya right. All right so you were a Boy Scout, you worked your way up to Eagle Scout, you’re very humble about that, you don’t talk about it very often. While you were doing all of that, you were helping pay
your way through college. You went to Louisiana
State and then Auburn? – That’s true. – Go Tigers. – Go Tigers on both sides. – Right, and then you got out of school and you’re a CPA and
you land in the field of not for profit healthcare,
did you plan that? – You know, no, from early
on I did not plan that, I was a CPA as you said
and I worked in a CPA firm in Baton Rouge and had a
pretty good career doing that. I decided that I wanted to do
something a little different, my practice had turned into
a lot of healthcare services and I ended up going to
work for a client of mine. It was a small hospital in Baton Rouge as the CFO there and that’s really where I started learning what
goes on in hospitals. – What about your parents,
what sort of influence did they have on you,
especially by the time you got to that point, did they
really help you get there? – By setting foundations
for what I am today. I have a very loving family,
a hard working family. My dad worked for IBM
pretty much his whole career and moved around a little bit
between Texas and Louisiana. My mom was a school teacher
and also stayed at home with us for quite a bit and so I
would say the foundation of what I am certainly
resonates from my parents. – They were high achievers, right? Wasn’t your father a scientist at IBM? – He was but he started
his career with NASA out of college and worked
there for a few years as an engineer on a rocket
on Saturn Five I believe and then left there and
began working for IBM for the rest of his
career until he retired. – You have this interesting mix. You have high achievers
but a close knit family, small hometown feel and
then you’re working there for a while but then
you went on to a number of big jobs in Tampa
and then Temple, Texas. The facilities were
getting much much bigger and then you were shifting
from what you were doing in finance to chief
operating officer and then what was it that brought you to Sarasota? Was it just the water? Was it just because you
loved the community? – No, it was at the foundation
we loved southwest Florida, we loved Sarasota, but when I
got approached about the job, and know my first job here was
as chief financial officer, I got approached about the
job, I took a long look at it, and Gwen McKenzie had asked
me if I’d be interested in coming, she was the CEO at the time and she had, I took a
look at it and I said, Wow, that’s a pretty nice little hospital and probably need a little
bit of financial help and discipline and some
skills that I thought that I could contribute to
and so that’s what happened. – And a great place to raise a family. – It’s a fantastic place,
both my daughters grew up here and went through grade school
and all the way through high school here and now
are off into college world. – You all love the water? – Oh, we do, who doesn’t like the water? – I agree. – It’s incredible, for
anybody who’s watching this and doesn’t know Sarasota,
I’d invite you to come down. I’ll be the Chamber of
Commerce person for a minute and say it’s an incredible place to visit. – The boating is amazing. – The boating is amazing,
the beaches are amazing, what’s not to like? – How do you know if it’s a
good day to go out on the water? – You go over one of the bridges, the Ringling Bridge or something like that and you look out there and if
you see there’s white caps, you’ll take that as a beach
day or go to Mote Aquarium or somewhere and visit that
and if you don’t see white caps it’s a great day to go out and fish. – Right, and fishing is so great here too. So you came here for the
job, for the lifestyle, but you really had a big job ahead of you because SMH looked so
different when you got here. A second ago you just
said that things weren’t as great as they could be but in fact, it was really losing money
and you, David, are credited with helping to engineer this
major financial turnaround at SMH, what did that take? – It’s not one person,
it takes a whole team, a whole village and it
starts at your board. You have to have a committed
board that recognizes what needs to be done, both
hard things and investments and that type of thing. You need a team, an
executive team around you that are really gonna
believe in that and do what needs to be done and
you need the physicians and the community behind you too. I appreciate you said that
I did something with it, but it’s really the entire group that comes together around that. – But that change in finances for Memorial really changed everything
and enabled it to grow in so many ways, the list of
everything that’s happened since you’ve come here
is just so incredible. Your staff has just about
doubled, how many now? More than–
– I think we’re up to around 6,400 employees now– – Throughout the healthcare system? – Throughout the healthcare system, yes. – You’ve brought in specialists
who are national players, why did you start doing that? – You start to look at ways to grow and we’ve done a number
of different things. We’ve brought in new services
so we did a tremendous investment in the outpatient services in this area before anyone
else really was doing that throughout the country. We’ve created diagnostic
centers and urgent care centers and on and on and on. But we also needed to keep growing and being better at what we
do, so we really sought out some really national leaders
and in their specialties and recruited them here
and when you do that, people follow, the patients
follow, and they come here. We had some people who
were leaving the area to go get their healthcare elsewhere, they don’t leave anymore. Some people were getting healthcare where they lived, where
that might be in Chicago or New York or wherever,
now they come here. – I think one of the most obvious ways that the hospital started
growing, you mentioned the urgent care centers and
I was talking about that too, but that’s where, just to
delay people, to the patients potential patients, we
saw Sarasota Memorial stretching out a little bit. You go up to Bradenton,
to Heritage Harbor, you go down to North Port, put in the ER and provide the other services there. There are a total of what, six? – We have six urgent cares
and then plus the freestanding ER that you mentioned in North Port and then a number of diagnostic centers. – So that’s growing in a very visible way, and then in a way that’s
maybe not as visible to everybody is First Physicians Group, tell us about that. – First Physicians Group
is the wholly owned subsidiary of Sarasota Memorial. It is the organization that,
when we employ a physician, that every one of our
physician’s is employed through. It’s grown tremendously
from around 50 doctors to close to 250 today. It just celebrated its 25th anniversary but its growth has been explosive. When you look at the
dynamics of healthcare and how physicians work, it’s really, you have to have it and you have to be, that’s how we are able to recruit and that’s how we’re able to attract and coordinate care through the community. – So you’ve got all of
these things in place and then Memorial says we’re
gonna get a trauma care center. – Yeah. – That was big, that was very big news, tell us about the trauma centers. – The trauma center, it came
around back when I was hired, it was one of the things
that I said I really think we should do a trauma center
and so I get as I said, hired into the CEO role,
so about five years ago. That took a tremendous
amount of coordination. It took a board that wanted to really, that would put some capital
into the organization because we didn’t have trauma bays, we needed to add more
OR so we needed to do a lot of different things like that. The board said yes, we agree, we need to have this in our community. Then we had to go talk
to all the physicians, because it’s a big burden on physicians, to be able to do call, to adjust the way they were working to
where we had to really work all that out, and I
say it was a whole team working on that, so we coordinated that. Then you had to get the staff, we had to make sure our
staff were at the level of being able to be a
level two trauma center and the results have been unbelievable. – Now everybody’s on board,
everybody’s is so grateful that we have it and
you cover so much area, tell us about that with the trauma center. – It’s amazing, so we didn’t really know when we started this what our
volumes were gonna be like. We had people, the
consultants, telling us, “Oh, you’ll see 50 patients,
maybe you’ll see 700 or 1,000 a year.” What we knew was that if
somebody had a car accident in front of the hospital, the
ambulances come and take them to Tampa or to St. Petersburg
to the trauma centers there and we just thought that was
not serving our community well. After our first year,
what we’ve learned is we see about 3,000 trauma patients a year. So it’s tremendously more
than we ever thought possible and I could tell you, I
know people who are walking the streets of Sarasota right now and living, who have
families and everything else who are alive today because
we made that decision and did that hard work. – And it also was a matter of bringing in specialists just for that
trauma care center, right? – We started with three trauma surgeons, I think we’re up to six or
seven trauma surgeons now. We’ve had to bring in two
orthopedic traumatologists that are specialists in orthopedic trauma. We have had to work
with various specialties to make sure they have
the right people to cover and it’s a journey, we didn’t
see all that five years ago. But we adapted and worked with our teams to do it as we went along. – Now, again, everyone
assumes that all of this is how it is, we have to
have this in our community. – I don’t think anyone thinks
we should go the other way. – Agree, agree. Another really visible
way that Memorial grew was with the new tower and you
were very involved in that. The cardiac care is there and
also Mother-Baby, tell us. – That was interesting, so we started that back in probably 2007, 2008. We built the new tower
called the Courtyard Tower for people who are here
and if you remember, that was in the time when
things got really dicey in Florida and the whole
country but particularly in Southwest Florida with the recession. I think we were probably the
only construction project going on at that point in
time and it was a tremendous, we had a lot of consultants
out there saying, “Oh, hospital beds are gonna go away, nobody’s gonna use hospitals anymore, everything’s gonna be an outpatient.” We kept saying we think
we need this tower, and the board, it was a huge
commitment on our boards part to allocate a couple hundred
million dollars to that. That’s not a small thing
and we look at the parts of the hospital that
needed the most investment, that being Mother-Baby,
NICU, others that are not profitable areas in the
hospital but now have some of the nicest space in the hospital because they had the greatest need. Then we have two cardiac floors in there and an orthopedic floor as well. – And just state of the art equipment too. – It’s incredible, I
mean think about that, I guess it’s been almost ten
years ago when that happened and it’s great people, great
equipment, great facility. – That also– – People can’t imagine being without it. – I think that also said so much for Memorial’s commitment
and that safety net approach, because for years, decades
people had been saying, “Hey, we need more services
for women and children.” And then here you go, you
build this beautiful tower and you devote how many
floors to women and baby? – Three of the seven
floors are to Mother-Baby, so between NICU and
delivery, and I’ll tell you, you look at the NICU in particular. The old NICU use to be a
bunch of basically cribs in a big room and now
they’re all individual rooms where families can be together
and have their privacy and get incredible healthcare. – It’s a much different situation. I think that said a lot to the community and then after that you
built another tower, the Rehab Pavilion. – We did, so we always
keep looking and say what’s the biggest need? Where are our biggest challenges? We had a rehab facility, it was, for those of you in Sarasota, it was on the nine and ten
east tower, kind of old part. It was, it needed help to say the least. We had a 34 bed rehab that we probably had a census of 20 patients
in at any given time and we built that new 53
bed or 54 bed building on the back and it’s been full ever since, I mean, and people rave about it. – The equipment there, I
mean we’re talking about cutting edge, tell us about
some of that equipment because it’s really right
out of a sci-fi movie. – It’s amazing and if you go up there and take a tour of it, we have tracks, a lot of this equipment was
kind of built for this hospital and now is being sold elsewhere. We tried to go all in
and tried to make sure we had the best of
everything, but some of it, you can put someone who
can’t walk, who can’t stand, and they can walk around the facility. – Yeah, that track–
– The track, that’s right. – It’s on the ceiling and
then they’re suspended but they get to walk the endoskeleton– – Nobody had that. – Yeah! – Nobody had that when we did that. – People are coming from far
away to try and get in on that. I mean, this is really
drawing a lot of business but it’s also serving the population. – It gets people back. I mean people who have had strokes or bad accidents or anything else are able to rehab now and get back to, part of their life back. – That has all just
been in the last decade? – The rehab was probably five
years ago, four years ago, maybe and Courtyard Tower
maybe eight years ago. – So for someone whose
lived in this community for a long time like I have, you sit back and you see suddenly all this growth and now you learn that
Memorial is going to grow even more on a tremendous level. You have two very big projects going, one lets talk about SMH in Venice. That has been something that you have been talking about for a long time, it’s going up very quickly
and a lot of people have really wanted that service. – Venice we’re very excited about, we bought that property,
the 65 acres back in 2005. We finally, our development,
if you go drive by it today you’ll see columns coming
up out of the ground. We expect to be open in
the fourth quarter 2021. It is going to be our first
satellite hospital in 95 years and so we’re excited about it. I think the people in
Venice and south county are excited about us being
there and it is going to make our, it’s gonna grow us again. We’re gonna grow and we’re gonna learn to do things different again. – And 110 beds and what
I think is important here to point out too is
that these are new beds? – Yes, there are new beds to the system. We’re starting with 110 beds, we have designed the facility around being able to expand and
expand in a very systematic kind of way so for example, our kitchen is not designed
for 110 bed hospital, it’s designed for a 300 bed hospital. A lot of that hospital is all designed to be able to expand without
causing interruptions to other parts of the
hospital and we think that expansion happens
a lot sooner than later. – The services that you’re
bringing to that part of Sarasota county, tell us. – The services are gonna be all inclusive of what you would find
in a community hospital. Everything from ER to labs
to diagnostics equipment, they’ll have a full OR
so orthopedics, cardiac, cath labs will be there, on and on and on, Mother-Baby, we’re doing Mother-Baby. – Yeah I was gonna say the one that is so important I think to so many women who live south of Sarasota
really would be obstetrics because if you live in
North Port or Venice, you have a long way to go
to get to the hospital. – You do, and it goes back
to your original question. There’s four hospitals in Sarasota county, we’re the only hospital
that delivers babies. Now they’ll be two because
our other one will start delivering babies as well and
we’re looking forward to that. – And lets talk about
the other big project happening right in front of the hospital and that’s the new cancer institute. – Right, so we took a
look probably five years, once again about five
years ago at what services are people leaving the town looking for and one of those were oncology needs. We have pretty amazing medical oncologists and surgical oncologists in town, really some of the
brightest in the country and in the world but people
felt that they needed to go somewhere else for treatment. We feel like anytime anybody’s
leaving in a large way to somewhere to go get treatment, we need to address that so we are developing a new cancer center. It’s gonna be a nice, I
think it’s eight story tower on our main campus. – And more beds. – It’s another 56 private
rooms and another nine OR’s. – So within a year or
two, Memorial will have more than 1,000 beds? – Much more than 1,000, yes. We’ll be well north of 1,000 and we’ll be, our volumes will be tremendous. You mentioned earlier
our 6400 or so employees, I think we’ll have over 10,000
employees at that point. – And then so the SMH Venice hosptial, the Cancer Institute,
all these things again, serving the needs of the
community and SMH is growing so much but how do you
keep that small town feel? Because you walk into the
hospital and there really is a vibe and a culture of
this is our hospital, this is our community
treasure, how do you keep that when it gets so big? – It’s not easy and it takes a lot, it takes everyone pulling
in the same direction. The culture here has grown for 95 years so there’s a lot of culture
in this organization and people come, they
don’t come for a job, they come because they
really enjoy what they do and want to do it to serve
the community in a way that is probably unique. It is when we’re hiring people, we spend a lot of time in hiring process to make sure people are
gonna fit in that culture and really understand what we’re about. I talk to everyone during orientation and I tell people, this
is how we do things, if you see somebody lost go help them out, if you see somebody go
up and say good morning, good afternoon, make eye
contact and the simple things. – And you’re the kind of
CEO who keeps another set of clothes in the office to go actually visit patients in the room. – I do. – Yeah I don’t know that I’ve heard of a lot on CEOs doing that kind of thing. Is that your hometown roots? – What I’m wearing right
now is what I wear to work every day because I
want to be approachable, I don’t wanna wear a suit
and go onto the floors or go into the different areas. I want employees to be
able to come up to me and talk about anything they want to and a lot of times people, or others see a dark suit and
tie, they look unapproachable. I’d like to be approachable. Now I do throw a jacket
on when I go see patients and the different areas of the hospital but it’s you know, that’s
how we have our culture. – It’s really that hometown vibe, so it’s starting from the top
and it goes all the way down, it’s evident anywhere
you go in the hospital. Will we all be able to maintain that? Will we always think of it
as our hometown hospital? Do you think the vibe inside the hospital will always feel that way? – It will as long as I’m able to be here. Yes, it would be a failure if
we ever became something else. It is something that we treasure but we also know that
people come here from all parts of the globe
to seek care in Sarasota. We have to play the role to them too but we will always, at the
fundamental of what we are, we’ll always be a community hospital who wants to get to know our neighbors and the people that come there. – David Verinder, thank you so
much for being with us today. – Thank you, I appreciate you having me. (upbeat music) – [Narrator] Thank you
for joining us today. For more information,
please visit smh.com. Follow us on your favorite
social media network.

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