A decade ago, two non-profit hospitals in a small market got two new CEOs ... and reshaped healthcare in northwest Florida.
In 1995, Patrick Madden, an up-by-his-bootstraps Irish immigrant with two decades of service with the Daughters of Charity hospital organization, came to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola as CEO. Madden found a facility described then by its executives as "a brick hospital partially hidden behind pine trees." The hospital was beginning to expand, but Madden quickly came to believe that to fulfill its mission of serving the poor, Sacred Heart would have to grow much faster -- and far beyond its home in Pensacola.
That same year, across town, executives at Baptist Health Care did a self-assessment and didn't like what they saw. Locally owned, with its flagship facility in one of the town's poorest areas on a little-traveled street, Baptist couldn't compete with Sacred Heart either in terms of funding or location. Worse, Baptist's internal surveys showed that both its employees and its patients were unhappy with its operations. Al Stubblefield, then executive vice president, was tasked to fix it.
What has ensued has been a decade of mostly friendly but fierce -- and expensive -- competition in which the leaders of the two non-profit hospital groups have strived to fulfill charitable missions by finding new ways and new places to make money. The battlefield for the competition is one of the state's poorer regions -- and one of the country's most competitive healthcare markets. Pensacola, says Stubblefield, is a "three hospital town where there ought to be two."
In 1995, Baptist was at a crossroads. In addition to having unhappy employees and customers, "our margins were mediocre, and we weren't seeing a lot of growth in revenue,'' says Stubblefield. Distracted by external affairs, including a lengthy consideration of three possible mergers, the hospital's leaders had lost focus.
Without the means to finance a huge expansion, Baptist's senior officers decided on a core strategy of improving patient satisfaction, says Jim Vickery, then CEO. Says Stubblefield: "We knew we could never outspend the competition, so we decided to outserve them."
Baptist leaders organized employees into improvement teams. Managers began soliciting and rewarding "Bright Ideas'' from employees. They established the in-house ServU university, boosted the fun factor at employee meetings, loaded bulletin boards with plaudits for employee achievements and dispatched torrents of thank-you letters to employees who helped improve the culture. Stubblefield also recruited talent from outside: A major player was Quint Studer, a hospital executive from Chicago who in 1999 parlayed his Baptist experience into his own successful healthcare consulting firm.
› Al Stubblefield, CEO
Baptist Health Care
Age: 54. Born in Jackson, Miss.
Degrees: Bachelor's in business, Mississippi College; master's in hospital and health administration, University of Alabama.
Career: Joined Baptist Health Care in 1985; earlier, worked at hospitals in Mississippi and Tennessee.
Family: Wife, Mary Lee; married 31 years; two sons and two daughters.
Style: For quarterly employee training meetings, Stubblefield gets togged up in heroes' costumes -- Superman, Obi "Al"' Kenobi -- in keeping with committee-chosen themes. It humanizes him, he says. "At the same time, I'm able to deliver a passionate, consistent message of never wavering from this idea of service excellence and quality.''
Author: Stubblefield's book, "Baptist Health Care's Journey to Excellence,'' was published in 2005.
Travels: Stubblefield will be telling the story of creating the Baptist workforce culture at the International Health Work Force Conference next March in Geneva, Switzerland.
Observer: When Baptist Hospital Administrator Mark Faulkner joined Baptist 13 years ago as an administrative assistant, Stubblefield became his mentor. Faulkner says, "When I was given the opportunity to have a real office or a closet next to Al's, I chose the closet. I wanted to be where the action was.''
On Madden: "Patrick has been a wonderful asset to our community and has been a visionary; he's built a highquality staff and led them to execute his vision very effectively.''
Baptist Health Care
› Opened: 1951.
› Employees: 5,500.
› Owner: Community owned.
› Owns or operates: Four hospitals in Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Jay and Atmore, Ala.; two medical parks in Pensacola and Navarre; three rehabilitation centers in Pensacola and Pace; Baptist Manor nursing home; Portofino Medical Spa; Lakeview and Avalon mental health centers; The Friary, residential alcohol/ drug treatment; Baptist Leadership Institute.
› Planned: The Andrews Institute for Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine, opening this month; affiliated performance and research centers in 2007.
› Partners with: Sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
› Affiliated with: Moffitt Cancer Institute.
› Award: Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award, 2003.
› Healthcare collaboration: Jointly funds Escambia Community Clinic with Sacred Heart Health System and the county.