Kathleen Silard, who became Stamford Health’s first female president and CEO on Oct. 1, said the organization — which includes Stamford Hospital, Stamford Health Medical Group and the Stamford Hospital Foundation — is in strong shape.
While that is perhaps to be expected, Silard noted that she is taking over at a particularly challenging time.
“The biggest challenge for the health care environment right now in general is cost,” she told the Business Journal. “The state hospital tax has had a lot of impact” — Stamford paid $29 million last year — “and as a not-for-profit, we spent some $70 million last year on uncompensated care.”
The latter was due largely to treating patients with no health insurance — something Silard said would not change moving forward.
“We exist to serve the needs of the community,” she said. “Being an independent is what makes part of the difference. We’re not focused on what a corporation wants from some central office, which makes us more nimble and quick.”
Silard said she hopes the next governor will see fit to significantly reduce — or eliminate entirely — the hospital tax.
“We realize the state that Connecticut is in right now,” she said. “It’s not a business-friendly environment. To thrive as a state, we need to invite job growth so that businesses come here and people want to move here with their families.”
Stamford Health laid off 20 employees both in 2017 and in 2015, but Silard said the organization “is not contemplating any more layoffs at this point in time.”
In fact, she said, Stamford Health is looking to hire, especially physicians in its surgical areas, at the Medical Group — a multispecialty concern with more than 30 offices throughout lower Fairfield County — and in its ambulatory services provided in such locations as Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Wilton and Stamford.
“That’s about making our care more accessible,” Silard said. “No one wants to go to the hospital unless they’re really sick.” Such services include routine doctor visits, getting an X-ray, having blood drawn or going for physical therapy.
Stamford Health employs about 3,300 people and has grown by 21 percent over the past five years. Silard — who before her promotion spent 15 years as Stamford Hospital’s executive vice president and chief operating officer — noted that the organization’s revenues grew last year to $583.3 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2017 from $563.5 million in FY 2016.
“We’re being very cost conscious,” she said. “We’re always looking at the ways we purchase goods and services, including pharmaceuticals, to be the most efficient we can.”
She further said that she has helped develop a strategic plan for the hospital “to continue to distinguish ourselves as the most-trusted partner in the community we serve. We want to be the most-trusted hospital around.”
To that end, she cited a number of recognitions the organization has received over the past several months, including a high ranking by specialized professional services firm Navigant Consulting, as well as U.S. News & World Report naming Stamford Hospital as a Best Regional Hospital for 2017-18.
Silard said that having worked as a registered nurse “helps me understand the needs of the organization through the lens of a clinician. I’ve been at the bedside and recognize the challenges that can be involved in caring for patients. It can be a tough job.”
She said that while interested in cultivating and mentoring talent, “I don’t really target that to females. What matters is working with all young up-and-comers interested in the health care field. That’s very important to me, as is helping them in advancing their careers.”
All told, Silard said she was happy with how Stamford Health’s employees have bought in to the group’s vision.
“One of our strengths is the extraordinary engagement of our physicians and our staff. We’re really fortunate to have world-class and well-trained physicians who are so invested in the organization and its future. That’s really a big part of our success.
“My focus,” she said, “is to continue to ensure that we provide excellence and quality in patient care.”