Verinder Promises Leadership Continuity at SMH



Hospital staff and patients alike can expect little disruption in the way Sarasota Memorial Health Care System conducts business following the appointment of a new chief executive. David Verinder, who on Friday was appointed the new president and CEO for the organization, has been proud of the work down during his eight years working in some administrative capacity for SMH, and he feels no reason for dramatic changes. 

"We have laid out a strategic plan, which we all worked out as a team," he said. He has been working to implement that plan for three months already as interim CEO, and his prime focus will be a continuation of that effort. Verinder, of course, has a strong hand in developing the plan as the hospital's chief operating officer, a post he was promoted into in 2010 after years as the hospital's chief financial officer. 

Verinder follows in the footsteps of Gwen MacKenzie, who left her role as CEO at SMH this summer to take over a leadership role within Ascension Health. The unanimous vote by the Sarasota Hospital Board to hire Verinder proves a clear move to continue on the same track.

The biggest change for Verinder, her said, has been developing a stronger relationship with the medical side of the health system. "We have to be in lockstep with our medical staff," he said. "We have 800 members of our medical staff here, all a highly skilled group of physicians, and they certainly have a lot of ideas on what the future should be."

The health system has plenty on its immediate horizon. This week, SMH announced a $46-million rehabilitation center for people with physical and neurological problems. The project was approved in March while MacKenzie still led the organization, Verinder said, and primarily helps modernize an existing facility. "Rehab was one of the older parts of the hospital and a part of the hospital that probably had seen its useful life used up," he said. The new project, which will have 34 to 55 inpatient beds, will provide patients with better service, he said.

But the biggest challenges in the immediate future aren't about infrastructure but personnel. The health system has hired some 100 primary care physicians into its First Physicians Group, with another 6 to 12 being added each year, but changes in health insurance that encourage more use of primary physicians will likely boost demand for more doctors, Verinder said.

And changes to the U.S. healthcare industry as a result of the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. SMH depends heavily of Medicare and Medicaid, which make up 70 percent of business, Verinder said, and the reduction in reimbursements presents its own challenge. And a resistance by Florida lawmakers to a state exchange adds to the challenge.

"Our belief is the more of our population is covered by some form of insurance or payment plan, the better off this community will be," he said. "But we're going to be successful in whatever we do. We will do what we need to do. I hate having uncertainty out there. We make capital decisions that will last 10, 20 years or more, and it is difficult to do things with so much uncertainty in major payer sources."

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