In mid-2012, Reno’s Saint Mary’s Heath Network, which oversees the Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center hospital, seemed to be on the verge of collapse.
Its then-owner, Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health) had tried unsuccessfully to sell the hospital, and Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center was in danger of foreclosure.
Prime Healthcare Services, headquartered in Ontario, Calif., and led by its founder, CEO and president, Dr. Prem Reddy, stepped in and bought the struggling nonprofit medical group and immediately reversed its fortunes.
“I’ll never forget the first two months and we made money, we were actually in the black, this cannot be possible,” said Helen Lidholm, CEO of Saint Mary’s Health Network, which she had worked for since 2007. “I had been there for so many years when we were always losing money every month. We now have made money every single month since July of 2012.”
Fast forward more than five years, and Saint Mary’s is continuing aggressive growth plans under Prime Healthcare guidance, highlighted by a $70 million reinvestment plan.
A key piece of the reinvestment project is the development of a 24-bed psychiatric facility to be located on the third floor of Saint Mary’s main campus at 411 W. Sixth St. in downtown Reno. Half of the beds will be dedicated to geriatric psychiatric care for persons over 65 years of age.
Another part of the reinvestment is continuing to remodel Saint Mary’s 46,000-square-foot multi-specialty care campus in northwest Reno, which offers urgent and primary care, integrated medicine and orthopedic care among its services. A clinical lab is being added at the location.
At Saint Mary’s Galena Clinic, another multi-specialty facility, they’ve added addition surgery capabilities and a women’s breast health center, headed by Dr. Chivonne Harrigal, a fellowship-trained breast radiologist.
Saint Mary’s has also opened specialized facilities around the area including rheumatology, outpatient lab, integrated medicine, gynecology, and a sleep center. Lidholm said other aspects such as updating medical equipment may not be as noticeable, but nonetheless are essential.
“The improvements you really can’t see, but like on a cruise ship, if the boilers don’t work or the engine room isn’t functioning properly, then the ship won’t operate very well,” she said.
As the Truckee Meadows population grows and health-care costs climb, the hospital has found that the population, particularly younger generations, have tended not to establish relationships with a primary care physician and only go to see a doctor when they feel in need of urgent care.
Saint Mary’s also has streamlined it process where specialists such as cardiologists communicate with other physicians or primary care providers on patients’ information through a database where patients medical information is kept, reducing the need for repeated producers and the possibility of mistakes.
“It provides more cost-effective care for the patient,” said Richard Bryan, who serves as Saint Mary’s medical director, chairman of its board and a cardiologist. “If I have access to a patient’s records, I don’t have to repeat lab work, or repeat tests, saving us money on both ends.”
Since Prime Healthcare took ownership of Saint Mary’s, the parent company has been adamant about emphasizing safety in the workplace.
Saint Mary’s is the only hospital in Nevada to earn an “A” rating by Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. Leapfrog is a national health-care ratings watchdog. Leapfrog uses 27 different metrics for 2,600 hospitals nationwide to determine its ratings. Factors include patient medical error; infections or injuries and ratings are based on patients’ survey information submitted to government organizations including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the American Hospital Association or voluntarily to Leapfrog itself.
In a release, provided by Saint Mary’s based on Leapfrog’s report, patients risk of death is 35.2 percent higher if they go to a C-rated hospital. And the likelihood goes up to 49.8 percent if a patient goes to a hospital with a D or F grade.
“It sounds simple, but creating a culture where everybody washes their hands in between patient visits is huge because, frankly, a hospital can be a dangerous place to be, particularly to people who, say, have a low immune system and who are already sick,” Lidholm said. “If, say, a patient falls or develops an infection after a surgery, then there’s also the cost of readmission or other related expenses.”
The leadership under Prime Healthcare, Lidholm points out, involves very few corporate levels or chains of command while incorporating medical staff’s input thus making decisions much more quickly.
That proves beneficial in the ever-changing health-care industry, where government regulations are a constant.
“At Saint Mary’s, there are no shareholders; we’re owned by one guy,” Lidholm said. “Any discussion about something we need is usually done directly with Dr. Reddy or our chief medical officer.”
One instance, Bryan recalled, was when he wanted Saint Mary’s to invest in a new CAT-SCAN machine that could more accurately detect cardiovascular diseases. Unbeknownst to him, Lidholm had already discussed purchasing the machine and received approval from Reddy.
Prime Healthcare, formed by Reddy in 2001, has made it a part of its mission to buy struggling hospitals across the country, saving them financially and improving quality of care. Prime Healthcare now owns 44 hospital groups around the United States.
Not having a multitude of corporate layers, Lidholm and Bryan said, have reduced the Saint Mary’s overhead, allowing it to maintain profitability.
When new ownership came on board, the hospital group was made a for-profit business, which the staff contends has given it a stigma that it only is concerned with making money or not committed to giving back to the community.
“We don’t shy away from that for-profit status, we are happy to pay our fair share of taxes,” Bryan said. “That has been a misconception that we have not given back to our community and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
The hospital reported that it paid $7.5 million in taxes in 2016. It also detailed several charitable organizations, that it has made donations to, including the American Heart Association, Moms on The Run, a local nonprofit that assists women dealing with breast cancer.
Saint Mary’s is also planning to reintroduce its Saint Mary’s Foundation early next year. The charitable arm of the medical group will offer scholarships for nursing students among its endeavors.