Sutter Santa Rosa CEO on the hospital's relentless pursuit of better care access

Megan Gillespie, DNP, RN, began serving as CEO of Sutter Santa Rosa (Calif.) Regional Hospital in October, and she entered the role already aware of work being done at the hospital's parent organization, Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health, to make it easier for patients and communities to access care.

In August, Sutter Health opened its Sutter Health Ambulatory Care Center and Surgery Center, one of more than two dozen outpatient facilities it plans to open in Northern California by 2027.   The health system, which welcomed a record number of resident physicians this academic year, is also looking to expand its residency offerings to boost the pipeline of physicians in the region. Additionally, Sutter Health recently named Dana Beckton as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer, effective Jan. 8, 2024, to help implement its diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.

Now, looking ahead to 2024, Sutter Santa Rosa will be relentless about continuing to stay focused on access, as the system is doing, as well as growth capacity, according to Dr. Gillespie.

"It really starts first with our people, having the right team, having the right infrastructure so people can bring their best selves to work," she told Becker's. "And that is palpable across the entire system."

She is specifically focused on strong partnerships with physicians and physician leaders. 

"Locally, I'm working very closely with our physicians to see where our bottlenecks are, where do we have to open up capacity? We're really focusing on those front door entry points. So, looking at our emergency departments, looking at our women's health services, looking at how we connect the systemness of our hospital, from inpatient to primary care," said Dr. Gillespie.

She anticipates collaboration across the continuum of care to continue as the hospital considers where it is developing new access points.

One of those entry points is surgical care. Sutter Santa Rosa is specifically focused on surgical access and looking at what surgeons need in terms of equipment to make the OR more efficient and able to serve more patients. 

This year for the first time, Healthgrades has awarded the hospital for excellence in surgical care and joint replacement. The hospital is now taking that a step further and adding an additional robot to its fleet, which will open additional capacities for surgeons, Dr. Gillespie said.

"We will continue to look at that and see how we can elevate that operational excellence, how we can operate more efficiently," she said.

Sutter Santa Rosa has also added new positions for its front-line teams to create that access and capacity. Dr. Gillespie expects that to continue to grow, in addition to collaboration across the hospital's anesthesia team as well as across its physician leaders. 

Another focus for the hospital: breaking down silos created during the pandemic to make the hospital the best place possible to work. With this in mind, Sutter Santa Rosa has started a town hall process to provide a forum where the hospital can leverage the expertise across different specialties, practices and roles, said Dr. Gillespie. 

"I think that's the key role of a leader to move those barriers that are cropping up," she said. "But we're not experts in everything. It's about leveraging the expertise and supporting our teams.

"Healthcare is much more than a job. It's more of a calling. That's when the best possible care happens. And that's when we can really be honest about the resources that we need, the equipment our team needs, the processes we need to put in place to be that place of operational excellence. And that's what we're continuing to focus on and shine a light on going forward."

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