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.”
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.”
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.”