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|NH's New Leadership: Warren West|
|Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017|
Throughout 2017, Business NH Magazine will highlight the dramatic changes in NH's leadership since 2015 by profiling leaders in new positions.
Hospital affiliations are common, but North Country Healthcare is different, as it is an affiliation between four small critical access hospitals within the North Country. That is one of many reasons Warren West, who spent the majority of his career at small hospitals, was excited to take over full time as CEO of North Country Healthcare in Whitefield last July.
“We are trying to solve the issue of access to care in the North Country on our own. It’s very unique, very exciting and very challenging,” says West, who formerly led Littleton Regional Health Care and stresses this is a local, North Country solution. “No one has done what we have done by building size and scale among critical access hospitals only.”
Together the four hospitals—Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, Littleton Regional Healthcare in Littleton, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook and Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster—have gross revenues of $300 million, 1,300 employees and about 100 beds. “That makes us either the 5th or 6th largest health care system in the state, which is another interesting fact when you think about the North Country,” West says. At the same time, the individual hospitals all have new executives (Michael Peterson, president of Androscoggin; Robert Nutter, president of Littleton as of this month; Scott Colby, president of Upper Connecticut Valley; and Michael Lee, president of Weeks), either due to executives moving to jobs elsewhere, or in the case of Littleton and Androscoggin, the executives moving to work for North Country Health, including West as CEO and Russell Keene as president and CFO.
West says his goals for the new system are to maintain financial viability for the long term and allow each hospital to retain its own entity and provide services locally. While West says each of the hospitals is the biggest economic engine in their respective communities, reimbursement changes from fee-for-service to value can mean lower reimbursements and make it hard for the individual hospitals to remain financially viable.
Since the affiliation became official in April 2016, the new organization has been working to centralize services and administrative needs and align technologies. For the fiscal year beginning October 2016, the new organization negotiated with insurers and saved $300,000. Also two home health care agencies were combined into one.
Looking ahead, West says the organization plans to combine lab services, a move that could result in operational efficiencies that he hopes to manage as much as possible by attrition and switching people to new roles. Other priorities include combining payroll, standardizing reporting and credentialing processes and combining back office activities.
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