VOICES: I am proud of how Premier Health teams worked day and night delivering on our commitment to community

Credit: WillJonesPhoto

Credit: WillJonesPhoto

The April 5 article entitled “Premier Health hopeful for financial recovery after decade of negative margins” was misleading and concerning. It failed to convey key efforts and some of the remarkable accomplishments, including fiscal results, from our physicians, nurses, employees, executive team, and ultimately our board of trustees, during a critical time in Premier’s history.

As a team, we faced tremendous challenges from 2017-2021. We made the difficult decision to close one of the system’s hospitals and were able to offer those employees a job within our system. Fortunately, 90% of employees chose to stay with Premier, while some others took an early retirement offer. We also discontinued an insurance plan, while simultaneously renegotiating a new contract with United Healthcare after being out of this network for nearly a year. These initiatives required extensive financial analysis, planning, and communication, which we accomplished together as a team.

I am not sure what is harder than working through a COVID pandemic. There was clearly no playbook to face such an unprecedented challenge, but I am proud of how our teams worked day and night-to literal exhaustion-delivering on our commitment to care for the communities we serve.

We elected to continue implementing our strategic plan regardless of the pandemic, focusing on improving our cost and revenue positions. The successful integration of a comprehensive electronic health record, coupled with expansion of numerous digital platforms, laid the groundwork for future clinical and business outcomes. Instead of waiting until the pandemic was less intense (COVID and other associated admissions did drop by 50% within Ohio by early 2022), we began transforming the organization through operational alignment of our vast physician network. Over $240M in revenue growth and cost reductions were implemented by year-end 2021. Doing this at any time in an organization’s history is difficult; doing so during a pandemic is nearly impossible. Fortunately, we had great people who pursued results no matter the circumstances. In fact, during 2021, my final year as CEO of Premier, we achieved an operating margin of -1.9% and had clear plans developed for achieving a breakeven margin by year-end 2022.

Words are never good or bad on their own; their context makes them so. The article and interview implied not enough was being done to achieve a positive operating margin within the last decade and particularly within the context of such extraordinary times. This is simply incorrect. As a former CEO, I don’t want the impression that the difficult decisions and sacrifices our doctors, nurses, staff, executive team, and board of trustees made during this period carelessly disregarded operational costs and margin. To the contrary, I know everyone took this very seriously and worked diligently to lay the groundwork for positive future clinical and business outcomes while delivering affordable, quality care to the community.

We should all be pleased that Premier Health is now experiencing positive margins for the first three months of 2024 after incurring significant losses in the past two years. Everyone involved should be congratulated. I suppose the real testimony will be what happens in the next decade.

Mary Boosalis is a former CEO of Premier Health.

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