How One Small City Hospital Survived the Health Care Crisis Hope Amid the Ruin of Our Battered Health Care System

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Five years ago, the actual leaks in the roof at French Hospital Medical Center (FHMC) were as numerous and troublesome as the virtual leaks in the healthcare system it housed. Losing money and nearly bankrupt, the hospital's buildings were shabby, conditions were crowded, and the equipment was outdated or in poor condition. Today, as French Hospital celebrates its five-year anniversary with Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), this 112-bed facility boasts a nationally acclaimed Cardiac Care Center, the brand new Hearst Cancer Resource Center, ranks #1 in patient satisfaction among all 41 CHW hospitals in the Western U.S., and is one of the most profitable hospitals in the state. Thomson Reuters ranked FHMC the only hospital in California to achieve ranking among the top 100 in the nation for cardiac care in 2008.

To call this turnaround remarkable is to understate the extraordinary legacy, loyalty, talent and effort that went into it.

Five years ago, the actual leaks in the roof at French Hospital Medical Center (FHMC) were as numerous and troublesome as the virtual leaks in the healthcare system it housed. Losing money and nearly bankrupt, the hospital's buildings were shabby, conditions were crowded, and the equipment was outdated or in poor condition. Today, as French Hospital celebrates its five-year anniversary with Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), this 112-bed facility boasts a nationally acclaimed Cardiac Care Center, the brand new Hearst Cancer Resource Center, ranks #1 in patient satisfaction among all 41 CHW hospitals in the Western U.S., and is one of the most profitable hospitals in the state. Thomson Reuters ranked FHMC the only hospital in California to achieve ranking among the top 100 in the nation for cardiac care in 2008.

"To call this turnaround remarkable is to understate the extraordinary legacy, loyalty, talent and effort that went into it.," said FHMC's Foundation Director, Debby Nicklas.

Recently dubbed "the little hospital that could," FHMC was established in 1946 by Dr. Edison French, who pioneered the concept of specialization by assembling some of the best medical specialists in the nation for his new hospital. Over time and under multiple, corporate, for-profit ownerships, the hospital suffered - but patient care did not. When CHW's Alan Iftiniuk took over the helm of this sinking ship in 2004, he engaged the whole community to find out what had sustained its good reputation.

"I wanted to find out why doctors continued to send their patients here, why people would send their loved ones here," he said. "This is a story about one community's love for a hospital, about a staff that fostered a caring culture despite bad management."

At a time when many hospitals are failing, and the public's faith in healthcare is waning; at a time when mere cynicism turns to abject despair in the face of our declining health care system, French Hospital Medical Center shines like a beacon of hope - hope that compassionate care and quality services can still be found for our sick and injured.

Find out what made the difference. Alan Iftiniuk and key staff members (many of whom left FHMC when all hope was lost, and then returned when CHW took it over) are available for interviews by calling 805.542.6300.

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Mary Verdin

Debby Nicklas
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