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An Interview with St. Mary Medical Center CEO Janice Ryba


What do you do as the CEO of St. Mary?

It’s really about fulfilling our mission, I feel like I’m the steward of the organization during the period of time that I’m in my role, so for me it’s making certain that we’re meeting the health needs of the community and I know that’s also a very broad comment, but it encompasses everything from making certain that we have high quality physicians participating at the hospital, providing care to the community, making sure we provide the physicians and our staff with the best in technology and tools to achieve those goals, and last but certainly not least, always looking if we can expand our services in the local community because we are a community based facility here in the Hobart community, servicing not only Hobart but also the Merrillville community, Crown Point, Portage, Valparaiso, Lake Station and Gary.

I feel that we’re in a unique location because we’re sitting right on that border to service large communities and not only Lake but also Porter County in Indiana. What is St. Mary best known for? We provide great care to our patients and our staff is passionate about the care they provide. There are a number of service lines that St. Mary really does an outstanding job within, it’s pretty broad. We have a great cardiac program here, our accredited chest pain center, we’re a primary stroke center, we have a great orthopedic service line so we’re not only accredited by the joint commission for our hip and knee replacement, for this second consecutive year.

We’ve been recognized by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield for the quality care we provide. We also have great obstetrical services we provide here at St. Mary, we have a very busy OB department, our cancer program and women’s health are also other areas we’re known for. In our omography area we provide a great service because we provide same day appointments, we take walk-in scheduling, and there are days if there is a positive finding we’re able to acquire the biopsy and in some cases provide the results the very same day to the patient.

What is St. Mary’s mission statement and how is it applied?

To provide the highest quality care in the most cost efficient manner, but in addition our mission is also about making certain we preserve the integrity and dignity of the individual. That we’re worried about the well-being to the community and servicing, and as well as servicing the poor and disadvantaged. I think from a quality perspective and cost effectiveness it means every day, every time with every patient, making sure they provide the highest quality care and when they’re ready for discharge, we place them in the appropriate location. So we’re really building what is really unique to St. Mary is a quality care navigator team where these individuals are assigned a patient based on their diagnosis, or their clinical condition.

In post-discharge they’re calling the patients and making certain they have their medications at home, that they understand where their follow up physician appointments are, and even if they’re not able to afford some of their medication we’re becoming very resourceful in working with local pharmacies as well as free programs in the community to get the patients what they need and keep them safe at their homes in discharge.

In what other ways does St. Mary get involved in the community?

We’ve been involved with the YMCA’s not only here in Hobart but also in Portage. In Hobart for example, we held a healthy kids day where we talked about healthy eating and diabetes and it’s so interesting to see at such a young age that the students are really able to absorb and put into effect in their own home environment and to be able to take home to their parents and be able to talk about what it means to eat healthy. Here in Hobart at one of the elementary schools, we also created a teaching garden in affiliation with the American Heart Association. That was all about, from the very start, planting a garden at the school to see the kids who were maybe never saw fruits and vegetables and they had the opportunity to experience and now the school system would like to expand that program from school to school.

We also developed a walking path in conjunction with the Portage Y, we now have our podiatrist there every week and a walking club in the community. In the Valparaiso community, we’re also going to be doing a teaching garden at the elementary school level, we saw how well it was received in our own Hobart community and we’re really anxious to expand that base of knowledge to the students. We do a large number of free screenings in the community and they’re mostly focused on diabetes, heart disease, and peripheral artery disease. We participate in mentor programs at the Portage high school, where leadership is affiliated with a student from the time they’re in middle school to the time they finish high school and to really help mentor them on a right path to a successful career.

We recognize that as a hospital this isn’t just a structure with four walls, but it is so much about do we understand the needs of the community and how are we engaging with other community leaders as well as residents of the community, to really meet those needs in fruitful ways day to day.

How are you hoping to improve as a hospital?

Improving the hospital includes everything from capital planning so our next large scale project actually will be an entire new surgery department in the hospital, expanding our intensive care unit because those are really high level severity illness patients. It also means providing our physicians the technology they need but it means enhancing our programs. We’re expanding our cardiovascular service line so we want to bring heartfelt service here to St. Mary Medical Center so patients will no longer need to travel into the city for their care so that we can provide high quality care right here at the hospital. It’s about enhancing education for our own staff and making them feel as if they’re a part of the St. Mary family and they want to stay here with us.

I always refer to our employees as our best group of marketers because if they’re satisfied here as employees and they know they would bring their family members here for care, we know we’re doing a great job cause we’ve really engaged the people who take care of the patients are staff everyday here at St. Mary.

Can you tell us a bit about the new facility in Valparaiso?

We just opened the facility for service February 4th, we had a variety of open houses prior to that point in time and it’s been a grand welcome from the Valparaiso community and Porter County to St. Mary. It’s a large facility, 55,000 sq ft, it’s currently a 2 story building and we have the ability to grow to a third story eventually, but that facility services the residents with a large array of outpatient diagnostic services, so everything from CT to MRI services, 3D Mammography, we also do ultrasounds, echocardiograms, physical therapy at the facility, as well as on-site clinical laboratory services.

The facility is based around a number of primary care physicians, family practitioners and internal medicine, but we also have a large array of specialists in the building because the project was not only about creating a healing environment, but you’ll be able to see if you visit the facility, making it a one stop shop for patients. If you’ve ever had to be in a position where you had to navigate the healthcare system, it can become very complex. So our notion was in an outpatient setting to bring specialists together to be able to service the patients at one site.

So at that building we have a large OBGYN practice in innovative women’s health, we have urology, pediatry, cardiology, neurology, plastic surgery, colonology services, general surgery and bariatric services at the site also. We also wanted to open the doors to the community so we have 2 large community rooms there so we’ve been approached by a number of organizations to use the community rooms. We’re also probably going to be doing yoga out of the site. We really are a community based hospital and we really mean that, we want to be a part of the community so we’re opening our doors to not only business groups but also support groups for medical services and we’ll also do a lot of continuing medical education at the site, whether it’s about childhood obesity which really is a challenge nationally, diabetes, preventing strokes, also our obstetrical and women’s health services with why it’s so important to have your mammography performed and for you to really participate in preventable programs in your own health insurance programs or that our hospital offers in intervals at health fairs and in the community. Really providing access to those services for poor and disadvantaged people.

What kind of assistance does St. Mary provide for patients and families?

We have a very strong helping hands program, so a lot of charity care for those individuals who can’t afford their care. We also, for over a year now, had instituted a navigator care program so those specialized nurse navigators are actually doing follow up phone calls to patients homes to assist them. So we may be reaching out and affiliating with the Salvation Army to help patients navigate to get them the resources they need. And we’ve been in the position to uniquely assist them with some low cost medications even through Medicare programs that they might not have been aware of prior in time. We do home visits to patients by our nursing staff making sure we can keep them comfortably in their own home. And those are not services that have a fee or that are billed to a patient at all, but it’s really about our notion that the patients would really prefer to be in their home versus in a hospital in a bed. We also know the notion of reform that we really need to reduce the number of remissions to the hospital and that means keeping the patients safe and making sure we can give them the medications and the support they need in their home.

What else does St. Mary Medical Center provide?

We have a number of what we would consider ancillary or support service education services and that’s everything from our nursing staff and our university program affiliates, as well as physical therapy, x-ray, our laboratory services, we also are affiliated with Indiana University Northwest School of Medicine, so we are now in a position where we are able to take 30 students for rotations under the actual guidance and leadership of our medical staff. So that’s been working really well. We have a strong summer program for individuals who are anticipating they might want to enter the medical field, and that program has been in place here at St. Mary for well over 20 years under the leadership of one of our medical directors for continuing medical education. We are deeply interested in engaging in the community and the residents of the community to further their healthcare education because we’re also a great provider of employment in the community and also offers an opportunity to keep that wealth of knowledge in our local community.

What does St. Mary have that makes it special?

When you come to St. Mary I think you feel it from the time you walk in the door that all of our staff physicians are passionate about the care they provide to the patient. Hearing feedback from the patients and the families and receiving letters is probably the most rewarding part of my job as well as our staff’s job to hear that they feel it when they’re here. It’s everyone from the valet service being really accommodating to our patients to our food and nutrition staff, our cleaning staff, and even walking down the halls of the hospital,always willing to escort an individuals whether they’re the patients or the visitors to their destination here at the hospital. And I think it’s just the attitude of the facility that is really caring and that’s what we’re here for.

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