New Lutheran CEO focuses on morale, staffing, expansion

Lutheran Health CEO Mike Poore talks with NewsChannel 15's Heather Herron.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  A day after Mike Poore was named Lutheran Health Network’s CEO, he addressed the upheaval at LHN over the last few months and what the future will bring.

In an interview with NewsChannel 15’s Heather Herron, Poore discussed challenges he’s facing in his new role, including low morale, staffing issues, and a $500 million investment that includes upgrades and an expansion.

A number of physicians, including Dupont Hospital Board Chairman Dr. Todd Rumsey, stepped down from leadership positions recently.

“One of the things I want to make clear is that we haven’t lost any physicians,” clarified Poore. “We’ve lost physicians in leadership positions, but those physicians are still at our hospitals, still taking care of patients, and actually we have a net positive number of physicians. At this hospital we’ve credentialed 20 new physicians this year.”

Poore said he’s working to improve morale among staff members. “The top priority was our people and making sure we got them set correctly. We did a three percent raise back in December, we did a large market adjustment for our nurses and surgical techs in July so that we were more competitive. That’s helped us recruit nurses and fill positions that were needed.”

Board members Chuck Surack and Tom Kelley recently stepped down from the board after years of service. Surack said he didn’t feel like his opinion was being valued.

Poore said he’s been approached by other community members who are interested on serving on Lutheran’s board, and he hopes people will give him a chance. “It’s what I’ve said over and over again. I’m not asking anyone to trust me. I’m asking them to let me earn their trust. I do that through transparency, through communication, and working with people and doing what I say I’m going to do.”

With regards to public perception and the negative attention Lutheran has received, Poore said he plans to continue to put patient care first. He believes that will reassure patients that their safety and care are paramount.

“Our physicians and our clinicians give great quality care. We can always improve that,” said Poore. “I’m very happy with the progress we’ve made. I’m not satisfied with where we are and will never be satisfied. I want to continue to strive for higher quality.”

That’s why, he said, Community Health Systems has promised to invest $500 million over the next five years. “The 500 million is actually gonna give us the capital to do things strategically, not just replacing beds and replacing things that need to be replaced. It’s going to give us that strategic advantage to cover all of the community with the care it needs. Five hundred million dollars over 5 years. That’s $275,000 a day, 365 days a year. Pretty good place to be in as a CEO.”

The capital investment plan will include a top to bottom renovation of Lutheran Hospital, major renovation to the emergency room, development of a comprehensive outpatient cardiovascular center, the consolidation of two separate endoscopy suites, and multiple new outpatient centers.

A group of ten doctors, known as Fort Wayne Physicians, LLC, attempted a buyout of Lutheran, but the $2.4 billion bid was rejected in May.

“I think CHS has made it real clear that they’re not selling Lutheran,” said Poore, when asked about the possibility of a sale in the future. “So that’s not on the table.”

Poore said he has worked to try to mend fences with those doctors, who’ve since dissolved the group.

“I’ve had conversations with several of those physicians and all those conversations are focus on the here and now and the future. What can we do to make our quality better, to give better service, to continue to climb that clinical ladder of giving higher technology care, the latest technology care. That’s what it’s been focused on. That’s a chapter that’s behind us and we’re focusing on the future.”