By: Becca Taurisano
Michael Harlovic, President and CEO, Oswego Health
Inpatient Staff, Oswego NY
Oswego Hospital, Oswego NY
Lakeview Center for Mental Health and Wellness, Oswego NY
Patient Room, Oswego Hospital, Oswego NY
Emergency Department Staff, Oswego Hospital, Oswego NY
The Manor at Seneca Hill, Skilled Nursing Facility, Oswego NY
Careers are the intersection of time, place, and opportunity,” says Oswego Health President and CEO, Michael Harlovic. “It’s been a fantastic decisioncoming to Oswego.” A Pittsburgh native, Harlovic received a Bachelor of Nursing in 1985 and a Masters of Psychiatric Nursing in 1989 from the University of Pittsburgh. For 24 years, Harlovic served in various roles from Psychiatric Program Manager, Director of Nursing, Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and eventually President and CEO for Allegheny General Hospital, the flagship hospital of the Allegheny Health Network, a seven-hospital health system.
Harlovic was the President and CEO of Allegheny Valley Hospital, a 230-bed, community hospital in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, when he was asked to serve as the interim President and CEO of Allegheny General Hospital, a 635-bed academic quaternary facility with 5,000 employees. He ran both facilities for nine months while the health system searched for a permanent CEO. “I never wrote interim on my badge, I just worked as if I was the permanent CEO from day one,” Harlovic says. The balancing act of running both the flagship facility and the community hospital prepared him for working in any environment.
Harlovic was named as the permanent President and CEO of Allegheny General Hospital for three years before new corporate management decided all health network hospitals should be physician-led. Management offered him a different position in the organization, but Harlovic decided at 55 years old it was time to retire, and he enjoyed his first summer off in his adult life. That fall, a recruiter called him about an opportunity at Oswego Health.
ROBUST OFFERINGS IN OSWEGO COUNTY
As Harlovic began to learn more about the community Oswego Health serves, he was surprised by what he found. “I was taken aback at all it had to offer,” he says, “such as the waterfront area, readily available education (SUNY Oswego), city revitalization projects, aluminum and energy industries, and a centralized location between Syracuse and Rochester.” The Oswego Health system impressed Harlovic as well. Oswego Health has 17 different locations offering diverse services, including a 162-bed acute care facility, a 120-bed long-term care facility, a 57-unit retirement home, full-service urgent care with laboratory and radiology services in Fulton and Central Square, primary care physicians, and a home care agency. “Typically, smaller hospitals, or sole community hospitals, do not have these robust offerings.” In addition, Oswego Health offers specialty services like orthopedic, bariatric, wound care, gastroenterology, ENT, general surgery, behavioral health, and obstetrics and gynecological surgery.
Oswego Health serves all of Oswego County, which includes approximately 120,000 people over 1,100 square miles. At 140 years old, the Oswego Health system is one of a handful of independent health systems left in New York State, including over 200 hospitals. Staying independent is very important to Oswego Health. “We are so mobile and fast. We don’t seek approval from anyone to change direction, other than our board of directors. I have worked in both kinds of health systems and being an independent health system is fabulous,” Harlovic says.
KEEPING CARE LOCAL
Oswego Health’s mission and vision is to provide high-quality, affordable, accessible health care to improve the health of the residents of the community. “It’s important to us to keep care local,” Harlovic says. To this end, Harlovic oversees a focused effort on the modernization of facilities including equipment and structural enhancements, made possible by the Oswego Health Foundation and private contributions from the community, local businesses, and their very own employees. “It’s that kind of help that supports providing local healthcare,” Harlovic says.
Oswego Health recently completed the development of the Lakeview Center for Mental Health and Wellness, a 42,000 sq ft behavioral health facility, made possible by a $13 million transformational grant from the New York State Department of Health as well as $4 million in board pledges and community support. The facility opened in January 2021 and has 20 adult beds and 12 geriatric beds. Currently, all the inpatient general medical surgical beds in the main hospital are being renovated. The dual-occupancy rooms will become private rooms equipped with a new HVAC filtration system purchased through Healthway Family of Brands, that will greatly improve the indoor air quality within the rooms. In addition, Indigo-Clean, a new light technology, will be installed in each patient bathroom to continuously disinfect the surfaces within the bathroom area. Indigo-Clean technology is known to reduce pathogens by nearly 99%, creating a greatly reduced chance of hospital acquired infection and better patient outcome.
Once completed, the 44 inpatient beds will have a hotel feel. The project is estimated to be complete by the end of 2021 at a cost of $8 million.
Fulton is an area of strategic growth for Oswego Health. The health system has been expanding its presence in the community, recently completing a $500,000 renovation to their Fulton North location, which will provide Primary Care services for the community. Oswego Health recently added tomosynthesis, which is 3D imaging for mammograms to the Fulton site. System wide, Oswego Health has state-of-the-art equipment, including robotics for orthopedic surgery.
A BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS
Harlovic has put together a compassionate, approachable, and accountable senior leadership team. Harlovic looks for individuals that are self-starters and work collaboratively. The senior leadership team sets strategic organizational goals and utilizes defined metrics as part of the Oswego Health “blueprint for success” which includes the pillars of Quality, Strategic Growth, Finance, Service, and People.
“Quality is our core service, we do needs assessments to identify what service lines we need to provide for our community,” Harlovic says. Because of the high diabetes rates in the community, Oswego Health opened the Center for Wound Healing four years ago. When they learned residents were traveling out of the area for orthopedic care, Oswego Health responded by opening the Center for Orthopedic Care. Oswego Health also opened a Center for Weight Loss and Surgery. “You can get the same great care locally and you don’t have to travel,” Harlovic says.
“To stay viable, you have to grow your organization and invest from a capital perspective and a service line perspective,” Harlovic says. Without enough primary care providers, residents were leaving to seek care. Building up this network in Oswego County translates into more business for Oswego Health specialists. Oswego Health established Physician Care, P.C. and acquired Oswego Family Physicians to facilitate growth and keep care local.
As a nonprofit healthcare system, Harlovic says the senior leadership team has worked hard to improve their revenue cycle, made the workforce more efficient, worked with insurance companies on contracts, reduced the timeline for patient stays, and controlled the cost of pharmaceuticals. “The saying goes no profit, no mission,” says Harlovic, “we are all fiduciary stewards.” Setting financial goals and being metrics-driven is important to ensuring Oswego Health stays profitable.
“We are a service-oriented culture from the time you walk in the door. Communication is key,” says Harlovic. Offering free valet parking at the main hospital and training employees to help visitors with directions, introduce themselves, and explain care to patients is how Oswego Health does business. “Not only is service important when people are seeking healthcare, but it’s also a really good business model. If people have a good experience here, they will tell others and are likely to return,” Harlovic says.
Employees are Oswego Health’s number one asset and Harlovic makes it a priority to connect frequently with his 1,200 employees. “You have to engage with one another,” Harlovic says, “it is about being visible and knowing people’s names.” He holds a daily debrief with department leaders throughout the health system, meets with the senior leadership team weekly and welcomes all new employees as part of their first day orientation. Harlovic believes in a classic open-door policy and in non-pandemic times travels to all campuses to meet with employees face-to-face. During COVID, he started virtual CEO Talks which are broadcast system-wide so he can keep employees connected. Between holiday gatherings, summer outings, and staff recognition throughout the year, Harlovic says you must “do your best to connect.”
Harlovic calls Oswego Health a “destination workplace: a place where people want to work, doctors want to practice, and patients want to go for care.” About 80% of Oswego Health employees also live in Oswego, so at any time, the hospital is likely caring for an employee’s family member or friend. It is important to Harlovic that his employees are compassionate and that there is a family feel when dealing with patients, all while delivering high-quality clinical services. “We are a very traditional community hospital. It’s a wonderful place,” says Harlovic.
RECOGNITION IN A PANDEMIC
The year 2020 was difficult for healthcare workers, but Harlovic says being recognized helped morale. Oswego Health received the Greater Oswego Fulton Chamber of Commerce Community Investor Award for improving the community through local testing and admitting COVID patients, as well as being ranked #1 in the state for administering COVID vaccinations. Oswego Health was recognized as a Healthcare Hero by CenterState CEO for their performance during the pandemic. Jamie Leszczynski, Senior Director of Communications for Oswego Health says, “Before the pandemic, Oswego Health was already a community partner and collaborator. With the pandemic, that became even more evident. We became a leader, we stood out and stood strong. Those relationships and collaboration with our partners are something we will continue to strengthen as we go forward. When minutes matter, we have the technology and services to help our local families. We are looking to support our partners and this community however we can.”