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CaroMont CEO Honored by Gaston Regional Chamber


Orr, Adam. (28 September 2014). CaroMont CEO to be honored by Chamber. The Gaston Gazette, online.

Doug Luckett had to turn challenges into opportunities when he became CaroMont Health’s interim chief executive last April.

“We had employees that were looking at their feet and physicians that were saying they didn’t want to be here,” Luckett said, describing the atmosphere at Gastonia’s CaroMont Regional Medical Center in April 2013. “But I think it became a circuit breaker for us to talk about what we wanted to do and what we needed to be.” Luckett became CEO in October 2013. He will be recognized with the Gaston Regional Chamber’s Spirit of the Economy award at the Salute to Business and Manufacturing gala at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia on Oct. 16.

He sat down with The Gazette to share some of the lessons he learned after being promoted from his post as CaroMont’s chief operating officer. His new role came after a series of company decisions — including changing the name of CaroMont Regional Medical Center to CaroMont Regional Medical Center and a controversial “Cheat Death” marketing campaign — had drawn fire from patients, employees and the community.

“That really became a time to clarify what was important to us,” Luckett said. “I told our staff and doctors that I never wanted them to have to apologize for where they worked or what they did, but above all I told them that they needed to do one thing above everything else: to never let anything distract them from focusing on the patient.”

He said he also promised employees that CaroMont’s administration would never “outrun” the nonprofit’s board of directors, staff or patients, that it was committed to communicating with them.

“I don’t ever want staff to find out about something by reading the local newspaper,” Luckett said. “We want to make sure that we’re communicating with them, that they hear it from us first.”

‘I’m accountable’
Luckett said he saw it as his job to remain visible and approachable to staff and the community. That often meant wearing his CaroMont name tag in public, he said.

“I live here, work here and ride my motorcycle here,” Luckett said. “Whether I’m at Hickory Tavern or Target or at church, I want people to know that I’m accountable. I don’t want buffers between me and the community and I’ve always thought that’s the way it should be.”

Some of the most vocal complaints probably came from local veterans unhappy with the hospital’s name change, Luckett said. CaroMont Regional Medical Center — the name of the original hospital — was designed to honor men and women who served the country.

“The name change made sense — the hospital truly does serve this entire region — but we also understood how some military veterans viewed that change,” Luckett said. “Those conversations really drove home the importance of this hospital to a community that really cares about it, that felt like it was relevant to them.”

Luckett called the conversations constructive.

“I think the veteran community … brought real dialogue to the table,” Luckett said. “I think we understand we’re not a surrogate for government. We’re not the VA (Veterans Affairs). But we do have a deep history with the veterans in this community.”

The importance of listening
Luckett said it was also clear that hospital physicians and staff needed to play a larger role in decisions made by CaroMont. He saw it as an opportunity to show employees CaroMont was serious about listening to their concerns.

“It was a chance to work with our physicians about their role in how decisions are made internally,” Luckett said.

The recent decision to partner with Apollo MD, a physician management group, was made almost entirely by CaroMont’s physicians, nurses and staff, according to Luckett.

“They put the feelers out. They did the reference checks,” Luckett said. “In the end that was their decision. For our employees to decide who they want to work with is important. I think those relationships are much better in the end.”

Staying independent
Luckett said his focus remains on making sure CaroMont’s doctors and staff have the tools they need to deliver the best care they can. He acknowledges that remaining an independent nonprofit surrounded by larger health organizations like Carolina’s Healthcare and Novant will always be a difficult task.

“All health systems have places they can improve,” Luckett said. “But we’ve got to make our own way and do so in a world that doesn’t necessarily favor high-quality, low-cost facilities. Sometimes it seems like you have to be big to exist, but CaroMont wants to prove you wrong.”