With major changes in three key administrative positions, the Kettering Health board of trustees last month turned to its chief financial officer to lead one of Dayton’s largest health systems on an interim basis.
Michael Mewhirter sat down with the Dayton Daily News to talk about how he plans to stabilize the company’s workforce as it responds to industry changes in how patients seek care and the impact inflation and rising costs has had on the company.
“We are not alone, but the inflationary growth and cost increases that we’re experiencing put tremendous pressure on the organization,” Mewhirter said. “We continue to have to respond to that in order to ensure that we can extend the highest quality of care to our patients and the communities we serve.”
Mewhirter was named the interim chief executive officer following the announcement that CEO Fred Manchur, who spent nearly 12 years in the role, was retiring. Manchur’s retirement will be effective at the end of this month, but he also took a leave of absence in advance of his retirement. While Mewhirter is filling in as the interim CEO, the Kettering Health board is working with a search firm to lead a national search for its next CEO, which could last months.
“As the board works through the CEO search, getting that CEO onboard and successfully transitioned into their position smoothly, that is a key focus of ours,” Mewhirter told the Dayton Daily News.
Rumors have swirled around the community about the exit of Manchur and two other Kettering Health executives, President Wally Sackett and Chief Administrative Officer Terry Burns, who left the organization prior to the announcement on Manchur’s retirement.
Mewhirter, who has been with the company for seven years, focused on what was ahead for the organization when questioned about recent departures from the company.
“Fred made a personal decision to retire and spend more time with his family, and we certainly appreciate his contribution and respect his decision,” Mewhirter said.
“We will continue to refine our organizational structure to ensure that this organization remains nimble and best positioned to respond to what is changing around us. Our organizational structure will continue to evolve as we continue to adjust accordingly,” Mewhirter said.
Expansions still to come
In 2022, Kettering Health opened new locations in Oxford and Springfield, as well as increased services in urban Dayton by opening a Kettering Health Years Ahead location on Salem Avenue, which provides primary care for those 65 and older. Kettering Health also renovated Cassano Health Center.
In 2023, Kettering Health has plans to open primary care expansions in Franklin, Centerville, and Wilmington. The health system operates 14 medical centers throughout the Dayton region, but Mewhirter said Kettering Health is seeing a growing trend of patients moving toward outpatient health care options versus inpatient.
Kettering Health is hoping to reach those patients in addition to helping patients from its hospital locations, he said.
“That brings with it a whole set of new reimbursements, new cost structure, and really a different level of responsibility in ensuring we care for our patients through that care,” Mewhirter said. “As we look to the future, more and more care will shift into that outpatient space, and I think as you look at the investments that we’ve made over the years, we’ve given ourselves a tremendous opportunity and strong position as that business and that care shifts to that outpatient environment.”
Addressing workforce needs
As Kettering Health continues to expand, the organization reported continued growth with its revenue. Last year’s net revenue was $2.3 billion.
“We’re seeing about a 4% increase in total operating revenue, specific to 2022 over 2021, which suggests we remain very, very busy across our organization,” Mewhirter said. “We’ve seen expenses increasing closer to 10% with labor leading that with almost an 11% increase year over year.”
Inflation and rising costs, particularly with workforce demands, along with reimbursement changes when it comes to medical coverage, continue to impact Kettering Health.
Kettering Health has approximately 14,000 employees across its organization, and it is continuing to compete for the top talent in the industry, Mewhirter said.
“Folks are retiring at a faster rate, so we’ve been working through ensuring that we can recruit and retain top talent in the organization,” Mewhirter said. He said recruiting talented employees has always been a focus, but it has become more prevalent in the current workforce dynamics they are experiencing.
Ensuring stability within its workforce and focusing on retention efforts are priorities for Kettering Health, Mewhirter said.
“We are working really hard to ensure our culture remains a very positive and key component of our organization,” Mewhirter said. “I’m certainly spending a lot of time in this interim period engaging with our medical staff, really seeking their feedback and gaining their counsel and ensuring that they are an integral part of our strategy and our success as we move forward.”
Medical staff like Kettering Health’s physician leaders are among the stakeholders the board has involved in the CEO search, Mewhirter said.
“I’m confident that they’ll make the right choice for the organization,” Mewhirter said. “I feel tremendously privileged to be in a position in this interim role to support the organization at this time, and I’m excited for our future.”
Mewhirter also expects the new CEO will “ensure very little disruption” of the work Kettering Health employees are doing.
“I know there’s a lot of attention put on the CEO, but this organization runs smoothly because of the work they do each and every day to serve each other and to serve their patients, and I’m very, very proud of the work they continue to engage in on behalf of Kettering Health,” Mewhirter said.
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