New Carney president upbeat about growth

Carney Hospital President Walter Ramos.  John Gillooly photoCarney Hospital President Walter Ramos. John Gillooly photoJust two months into his tenure as the president of Carney Hospital, Walter J. Ramos is bullish about the hospital’s fiscal health and position in the health care market.

“Steward has put almost $24 million into Carney Hospital,” Ramos told the Reporter this week in his first interview since taking the helm in June. “We’re investing in Carney because we believe in Carney, and Steward believes in Carney. It’s an important part of this community, and it’s a hospital that’s going to grow. It is Carney’s moment and we’re going to bring it back.”

Ramos, 53, was plucked from his most recent role as CEO of Fields Corner’s DotHouse Health earlier this year to replace Andy Davis, who left the hospital after a two-year stint as president. The decision to leave DotHouse was a “tough call,” Ramos said.

“You end up being very committed to the place that you work at and the institution that you serve. But there are challenges at every institution and things that pull you in and keep you there. I’m finding a home here at Carney just as I did at DotHouse,” said Ramos.

Part of the gravitational pull at Carney is a confluence of events and investments that have left the Dorchester hospital well positioned for growth. Last year’s shutdown of Quincy Medical Center has given the Carney new patients, physicians, and resources. Emergency room visits are up dramatically, a statistic that Ramos attributes directly to the Quincy hospital’s closure. Renovations are underway that will expand the hospital’s emergency room and beautify its parking garage and surrounding lots.

This week, the Carney launched a new marketing campaign that intends to seize on that momentum by speaking more broadly to a constituency in Quincy and Milton as well as Dorchester.

“In last few months we’ve probably had the best few months that Carney has had in some time,” said Ramos. “And the financial picture is part of that. We’re expanding our base. I think the Carney name is a good one and that we’re going to reach a lot of people who are familiar with the Carney and need to see us in a new light.”

More than 100 new physicians have become affiliated with the Carney over the last year — with more new docs signing contracts every week. The hospital’s Family Medicine department has been a major boost — with a residency program adding new capacity for increased hours on Mondays and Tuesdays. Soon, Ramos says, the Family Medicine wing — now housed in the hospital’s Seton Building — will add Saturday hours.
“We need to be able to accommodate the people who live here in the work force who may not be as flexible,” said Ramos. “We need to meet them when they can be met, so we need to open up our facility to accommodate the community we operate in.”

Promising quick turn-around times for appointments — within 24 hours of a patient’s call – is part of the Carney’s new marketing pitch. They will also focus heavily on their increased number of specialists. The hospital will continue to emphasize its quality scores as well. The Carney has consistently won high ratings
for excellence in safety, transparency, and quality through the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, an independent organization that measures hospital quality across the US. In 2014, Carney cracked the group’s list of the 94 top hospitals in the country.

As part of his personal goal for his first year at the helm, Ramos is launching a new internal campaign — called Heart to Heart — that is aimed at making the patient experience at Carney even better.
“We want to make sure we’re able to relate in a compassionate and friendly way to everyone who walks through these doors. That’s my major initiative for my first year: That we are able to relay an understanding of how the patient feels when they walk into a building of this size with a concern on their mind about their health. That we empathize with them and that we’re here to help.”

Ramos is the second high-profile community health center leader to be recruited for the job. Bill Walczak, the founder and longtime director of Codman Square Health Center, was hired to run Carney in 2011. He left after only one year.

There are other expectations from Steward’s executive team that Ramos will need to meet to find a level of success that has sometimes eluded his predecessors.

“One, we want to continue this trend of financial stability. It’s important for us to maintain the level and quality of service that we provide,” Ramos said. “Two, I want to work hard to assimilate the doctors who have come from Quincy with the doctors that were here at Carney and that process not only means having them feel comfortable but to extend that out to the larger community, Third is to note the presence of Carney in the communities that we serve.

At the top of that list — as always — is finding a fiscal equilibrium that has always been a tough hurdle for Dorchester’s only hospital. Ramos strikes a confident tone on that front.

“I think it’s the perfect storm for us right now,” said Ramos. “In a good way.”