CROSSVILLE – There was a changing of the guard at Cumberland Medical Center earlier this year. David Bunch – a 27-year industry veteran – was named its top administrator back in April, a move that comes at an important time for the Crossville hospital.
CMC is entering the third year in its new partnership with Covenant Health, the Knoxville-based health care network. It also recently wrapped a $6.3 million emergency department expansion project that will replace outdated space – and could serve as a catalyst for future improvements.
Bunch, in an exclusive one-on-one interview with the Upper Cumberland Business Journal, outlined next steps for the facility, steps that hinge highly on successful physician recruitment efforts and increasing patient satisfaction scores. Here are four takeaways from that talk:
1. BUNCH IS CELEBRATING A HOMECOMING – OF SORTS
Bunch has largely worked with Community Health Systems, the same group that oversees Jamestown Regional Medical Center, now Tennova Healthcare–Jamestown, in Fentress County, but made the jump to Covenant earlier this year. He was talked into the switch by former CMC CAO Jeremy Biggs, who is now president and CAO at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge. Biggs’ move opened the door in Crossville, a place Bunch considers very much “like home.” A native of Oliver Springs, he’s not too far from his childhood base.
“This (CMC) is the hospital my grandfather used to come to when I was a kid. My family is still centrally located,” he said. “This is a homecoming for me and something I cherish.”
2. THE ER PROJECT WILL SERVE AS A CATALYST FOR FUTURE CHANGE
On Sept. 30, CMC wrapped its ER renovation, a year-long project that means additional space and 25 new private patient exam rooms, which will be designated for specialized treatment such as trauma, cardiac, and ear, nose and throat care. CMC treats 34,000 patients each year in its emergency room; the new space will be able to handle up to 40,000 visits annually, if needed – an increase of 29 percent.
Bunch says the ER project, set to open to patients Oct. 4, lays the groundwork for future change at the facility. Covenant Health, he added, is “heavily committed to spending significant capital dollars”
at Cumberland Medical Center, particularly within the first six years of its relationship. During a groundbreaking event last year, Tony Spezia, president and chief executive officer of Covenant Health, said the group is investing more than a billion dollars in hospitals, services and technology in East and Middle Tennessee, “more than any other health care system in our region,” he said.
For example, Covenant is spending in excess of $2 million – in addition to the $6.3 million ER project – for capital improvements at CMC this year, Bunch said.
“(The ER project) will start a domino effect on some future change,” Bunch added. “It lays the groundwork. One of the things we’re considering is how do we renovate the old ER space and make it more user-friendly for other service lines that we have? Probably in the fourth quarter of this year, we’ll begin trying to solidify some (of those) plans going into 2017.”
3. PHYSICIAN RECRUITMENT IS KEY
So key, in fact, that Bunch called it “the biggest single thing” he’s been tasked with – from both Covenant leadership and CMC’s front-line staff.
CMC critically needs orthopedic physicians. A new ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor started in July and a urologist was set to begin in late summer/ early fall. CMC is also recruiting for a gastroenterologist.
“Everybody is adamant about wanting and needing to recruit more physicians to the community, and that’s certainly what we intend to do,” Bunch said. “The facility, that’s an easy sell, as are the people that are here. We have fantastic people, a lot of long-tenured employees who are dedicated to this community and this hospital. They do an outstanding job of treating people like they’re family members, and I think that’s what separates us here at Cumberland.”
4. CULTURE IS ALSO CRUCIAL
Throughout his career, Bunch has been credited with increasing patient satisfaction scores. Since he took
his latest post, CMC has seen “some significant improvements” in that arena, although there’s still room for improvement, he said. The goal is to rank in the top 10 percent nationally. A “lofty, but achievable” mark.
“It takes time to build that culture and that mindset,” he said. “It’s getting everyone to understand that it’s not just something we talk about, but something we exhibit and live on a daily basis. At some point, it could be ourselves or our family members that are here, and we need to be delivering care – everyday to every person – just like we would to a family member.”