September 3, 2018
Shop Talk

Saint Vincent's interim CEO

Photo | Brad Kane
Ava Collins, chief operating officer and interim CEO at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester

Ava Collins, chief operating officer and interim CEO at Saint Vincent Hospital

Founded: 1893

Employees: 2,500

Residence: Worcester

Birthplace: Bruce, Miss.

Education: Bachelor's degree in medical technology, University of Louisiana Monroe; master's degree in healthcare administration from Tulane University in New Orleans

At the end of July, Saint Vincent Hospital CEO Jeffrey Welch resigned his position to run a group of Greater Miami hospitals for Saint Vincent parent company Tenet Healthcare. His chief operating officer, Ava Collins, is serving as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is named and focusing on keeping the healthcare organization running as a well-oiled machine.

When did you join Saint Vincent?

I've been at Saint Vincent Hospital and with Tenet Healthcare for 2.5 years. I came to Saint Vincent from Ochsner Health System in Louisiana, where I worked for more than 20 years. Basically, I grew up at Ochsner.

My first healthcare job was in the laboratory, so I came to understand the important role it plays in patient diagnoses and see how the departments and elements works with each other for the patient.

There is an advantage to working in the day-to-day operations before you take on a leadership role. Working in the trenches gives you a better idea of how everything functions.

How's it been going?

It has been a great 2.5 years. Working at Saint Vincent was a very attractive for me. The entire Northeast, and Massachusetts especially, is known as a healthcare mecca. Tenet is known as a well-run healthcare company. Being COO at Saint Vincent gave me the opportunity to help lead its going commitment to health and the community.

Saint Vincent turns 125 this year.

When you realize how long Saint Vincent has been around, you think about the Sisters of Providence and everything they set out when they first started the hospital. We want to stay true to their original vision. Hopefully, they would be very proud of us. Our purpose is the highest level of care and the safest care. We are very honored to be the only Worcester hospital to receive an A grade for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group.

How are the healthcare needs of Mass. different from Louisiana?

Central Massachusetts has small geographic differences, but it is largely the same as Louisiana.

When we decide where to spend our time and dollars, we look at the prevalence of health problems and how well it is met by other providers. Most needs are very similar, like cardiovascular health.

Do you focus on certain areas where maybe other hospitals don't?

We want to provide total care to patients that choose us. By having a very broad offering, we can treat all of our patients' needs.

You've invested more in behavioral health.

We have grown our commitment to the community's behavioral health needs. We have a pod in the emergency department just for behavioral health patients. The number of in-patient beds for behavioral health has expanded from 13 to 20.

How do you keep overall costs down?

There will always be pressures on the budget from payors, which is why we focus on quality, safety and efficiency.

How can operations be more efficient?

We want to streamline the throughput of our patients. We are opening a command center and applying engineering and predictive analytics to predict patient flow. By doing this and using new technology, we want to bend the cost curve while staying true to our value statements of providing quality and safe care, exceptional service, and affordability.

It all comes down to efficient use of time and resources.

How's the interim CEO position coming along?

It is an honor to be asked. My focus is on supporting our teams and our mission. I want to be supportive and visible to our patients and employees, to both listen and connect with them. Saint Vincent already has great executive, leadership and doctor teams, so that makes the transition smooth.

Do you want to be the permanent CEO?

I'm keeping my focus on the interim role and insuring we continue to execute on our initiatives and commitment to the community. It is a pleasure and an honor to represent Saint Vincent Hospital.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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