KU Hospital’s turnaround seen as extraordinary

? Kansas University Hospital is the comeback kid.

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Fourteen years ago, the hospital was fighting for survival. Employee turnover was high, patient volume was low and money was hard to come by. The hospital was on the verge of bankruptcy as a state agency.

It took months to get anything done because of the red tape typical of government processes. Hiring a new employee, purchasing equipment, awarding a pay raise or ordering repair work often took months to accomplish.

That changed Oct. 1, 1998, when the hospital moved from a state entity to one governed by its own authority.

“Oh my gosh. It’s like night and day,” Thu Janes, a registered nurse, said of the difference between then and now. She has worked at KU Hospital for 22 years and recalled the days when she hoarded supplies.

“My pockets would be loaded up with stuff because I didn’t know when the next thing would come or where I would find it,” she said. “We all had our own stash just to do things. It wasn’t an environment that made you feel good to be in.”

Today, she said things are much different. Supplies are readily available, and she works in a new 32-bed unit for patients dealing with neurological problems. It was part of a recent $52 million expansion project.

“Every nook and cranny had staff input in it,” she said. That input has improved workflow and patient care.

Janes said she feels like she knows more about the hospital’s budget because the administrators are transparent about it — whether it’s good, bad or ugly. She said the staff take stewardship in the processes because of that transparency.

“That’s a major cultural change. Before, the staff was detached and they came in and just got a paycheck, and this was just a job,” she said.

Now, they strive to not only be the best at what they do in the Kansas City area, but in the nation, and she said they work collaboratively as a team.

She credits the administration for focusing on patient care instead of money.

“If everybody really truly focused on the right thing and why we are existing as a hospital, the people that make that up — the work that goes in it — just falls in line. That’s why we’ve been able to grow,” she said.

Here’s a look at the hospital’s growth between 1998 and 2011:

l Inpatient visits — up 106 percent, from 13,082 to 26,998.

l Total revenue — up 325 percent, from $189 million to $805 million.

l Patient satisfaction — grown from 10 percent to 91 percent.

l Employee turnover — decreased from 33 percent to 10 percent.

Tammy Peterman, chief operating officer, said the hospital is focused on sustaining what it has achieved and can’t afford to be stagnant.

“If you don’t continue to look for ways to improve, you will not maintain the level of performance that has been achieved. We continue to look for ways to really reinvent ourselves when it comes to quality and services,” she said.