Denver Health driving forward to keep serving the community: Q&A with CEO Dr. Donna Lynne

Denver Health has faced its fair share of the common financial challenges affecting health systems. It has been supported by both good relationships with other health systems and from state legislators as it fights to recover from a $32 million operating loss in 2022.

Denver Health, whose flagship is the 555-bed acute care Denver Health Medical Center and which serves approximately a quarter of the city's residents, received a $5 million grant from Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente May 30 with the possibility of a further matching $5 million donation. State legislators also fast-tracked a $5 million payment in February.

Becker's took some time to sit down with CEO Donna Lynne, DrPH, and ask her about the path forward for the system, which has served the city and other parts of Colorado for over 160 years.

Question: Can you outline specifics on what the system is doing to mitigate the common challenges of inflationary pressure and labor issues?

Dr. Donna Lynne: Denver Health is focused on recruitment and retention of our own employees. We have reduced our dependency on travelers, which creates stronger teams and strengthens the entire workforce. We are committed to workforce development and providing the support our employees need to have fulfilling careers at Denver Health. We also work closely with local colleges to have a direct talent pipeline.

Q: What are your thoughts on Intermountain's growing presence in Colorado? Any specific thoughts on their healthcare plan and how it may pose a challenge to you?

DL: Intermountain's Select Health Plan is a respected million-member plan which gives them some scale opportunities, while Denver Health Medical Plan remains the Colorado local plan focused on people in Colorado. Denver Health Medical Plan will compete directly with Select Health Plan’s new Jan. 1, 2024, exchange and Medicare Advantage product offerings in Colorado. Our health plan currently includes SCL (now Intermountain) and UCHealth in network for a number of our products.

Q: You made it very clear that the Kaiser $10 million gift has nothing to do with Denver Health being a possible target for Risant. Can you explain why that is, why the Denver Health model doesn't fit Risant?

DL: I applaud the innovation of two leading healthcare organizations — Kaiser Permanente and Geisinger. Kaiser Permanente's support of Denver Health is all about their community benefit focus, and their recognition that a safety net is essential for our patients and the state. Denver Health has been independent for more than 160 years and I just don't see that changing. Our relationship to the city of Denver as well as our commitment to the citizens of Denver carry an expectation that we will do everything we can to maintain our independence and core mission.

Q: Can you expand on what you think are the pros and cons of the public health option proposed by Gov. Jared Polis?

DL: We still have more than 350,000 people who are uninsured in Colorado. Efforts to improve access should be lauded.

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