Rx for Enloe CEO

Monday (March 26), Deborah Yancer officially becomes the chief caretaker of Enloe Medical Center. On paper, at least, she is just what the doctor ordered for Chico’s ailing hospital. Her treatment plan had better be aggressive, because her charge is at serious risk of flatlining.

The new CEO inherits a medical center that’s:

• Under investigation for three recent deaths during surgery.

• Forming its second anesthesiologist group since pushing aside Anesthesia Associates of Chico last summer.

• Entering negotiations with the service workers’ union it battled for three years, all the way to a U.S. Court of Appeals.

• Reeling from layoffs—contested by the union—that took effect just a week before Tuesday’s appellate decision.

• Starting a long-planned facility expansion in the midst of a financial pinch.

Those are just the developments over the past nine months; years of ill will resulting from contentious unionization efforts and neighborhood resistance to the hospital’s expansion preceded them. Yancer will need to draw on her nursing background to heal wounds so deep.

We are confident she can, because she’s done so before. In 2000, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital was under investigation, morale was low, and its CEO had stepped down after a vote of no confidence. (Sound familiar?) With Yancer at the helm, the Maryland medical center now is renowned for emergency care and as a Best Place to Work award winner.

That’s the turnaround Enloe needs.

Yancer’s first directive actually takes effect today (March 22), when the hospital launches a full review of surgery and anesthesiology. How this process proceeds will speak volumes about her leadership. She also has a golden opportunity to restore faith in the administration by dealing openly and fairly with the Service Employees International Union, and by fulfilling her promise of a more inclusive “culture” at Enloe.

In the long run, though, Yancer will succeed only if she influences the people who hired her. Enloe’s board has a habit of approving bad decisions. (See: union-busting consultants and fill-in anesthesiologists.) In hiring Yancer, we believe they have made a good decision, but the only way we’ll know for sure is if they get out of her way and let her do her job.

A community is only as healthy as its hospital. Ms. Yancer, Chico is in your healing hands.