When Dan Kane first saw his office at Bayonne Medical Center – a plush, dark wooden place that exuded excess, but not practicality – he hated it.
If anything, Kane was a practical man. Though he had been assigned as the new acting chief executive officer for Bayonne Medical Center, this just wasn’t his style.
This was a man who – as executive director of Englewood Hospital – once banned employees from chewing gum on the job, not because he had anything against gum, but rather because he felt it gave a bad impression to those who used the hospital.
Small things can make or break the image of a hospital, a fact he well knew from his nearly a half-century working in the hospital industry.
His office was symbolic of another time and philosophy, and reflected an approach to management that wasn’t his.
“When people come to see me I tell them, ‘I’m not responsible for the office,’” he said.
When asked what he might have had instead, he said, “To begin with, I would put a conference table here,” pointing to the coffee table. For Kane, each inch of the hospital had to have a function, and this seemed to reflect his agenda for improving the hospital later.
Kane will be retiring at the end of January 2012, although – in his late 60s – Kane has tried to retire before, each time being lured back into an industry he knows practically from the ground up.
Learned how hospitals run
To say Dan Kane has hospital life in his blood would be an understatement. Ever since he was a teen, hospitals have been a big part of his life.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Kane got his first part-time job in the hospital his mother worked in during the 1960s.
“My mother was a credit broker for the Maimonides Medical Center. I worked there on weekends and during the summer when I went to high school and college,” he said during an interview this week on his retiring as president and executive director of Bayonne Medical Center. “The problem was that during the summer, I never worked the same job. One summer I might be working as a cashier, another summer as an elevator operator.”
Sometimes, he was charged with helping transport patients, while other times he worked as a clerk. While he didn’t do every job in the hospital, he said he got a very good idea of how hospital operations worked.
“One day it struck me that hospitals were very much a microcosm of society and that the staff was made up of every class – from doctors to wage earners,” he said.
This revelation gave him perhaps a clearer view into how to make hospitals run more efficiently. Indeed, it resulted in a career that allowed him to take a leadership role in a number of hospitals in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. It also perhaps explains why so many people continued to want his services, even when he had made up his mind to retire.
He once managed to retire for 33 days before being lured back to serve as acting chief executive officer of Nassau Health Care Corp.
Kane also ran Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood for 14 years, where some employees remember him as being very involved in the operations.
BMC was in tough shape when he came
When lured out of potential retirement in 2007 to help run Bayonne Medical Center and attempt to keep it from closing, Kane had made it clear to everybody that this was only going to be a temporary situation.
But he didn’t understand how bad things were until he got here.
“When I took over as interim CEO, I found that the financial situation was even more tenuous than I’d thought,” he said. “We had to take the hospital into bankruptcy.”
This was important not just because Bayonne would have no hospital, but because as one of the city’s largest employers, the closing would have had a huge impact on the local economy.
“A study done by Bob Benecke – a business consultant for the city – at the time said that the hospital closing would have a $250 million to $300 million impact on the local economy,” Kane said.
Wage-earners suddenly unemployed would not be able to do business locally, pay rent or mortgages, and other economic activity.
During the months that followed, a big part of Kane’s job was to find a way to keep the hospital doors open while a new owner could be found.
This was a team effort that involved a lot of people, employees, government officials, and people from the community.
This was a team effort, which involved a lot of individuals.” – Dan Kane
Although visions of golf greens lingered in his head, Kane still didn’t get to retire. The new hospital owners asked him to stay on to help make the hospital profitable and to begin building new programs upon which the future of the hospital would depend.
The new owners, he said, invested heavily into making improvements to what became a for-profit hospital.
Kane dispelled the differences between not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals, saying that they both needed a good business model to thrive.
“The main difference is that the new owners have more of an incentive for the hospital to succeed since they have invested their own money into it,” Kane said.
A lot of work, but a lot of success, too
Under Kane’s watch, Bayonne Medical Center became one of the first hospitals in the nation to challenge insurance companies and to fight for fair reimbursement rates. Recently, the hospital came to an agreement with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, which could be a model for future agreements with other insurance carriers.
But the team under Kane’s direction turned a number of things around and made a number of improvements that allowed the hospital to turn a profit within a year, and cooperative agreements helped the hospital to restore some programs that the prior management had been forced to abandon.
“It took a tremendous amount of effort,” he said. “We looked for opportunities to do the appropriate things.”
When he came on, the Transitional Care Unit – which is charged with transitioning patients to different services or locations – only serviced five or six people a day. Currently, the unit handles 14 to 15 people a day.
The psychiatric unit, which was proposed to close under the old ownership because it handled only two or three patients per day, was reconfigured to deal with geriatric patients – for which there was a need. The unit currently handles 15 to 16 people a day.
Among the significant changes in the hospital was the way it handles its record keeping, and Kane said the new owners invested as much as $8 million to develop an electronic medical records system, which is expected to be unveiled at some point this year.
The new ownership made vast improvements to its cardiac and cancer treatment, bringing in new equipment such as the CAT and PET scanners, as well as upgrading those departments.
The endoscopy department, which uses instruments to look inside a patient’s body, has won national recognition. Kane said perhaps a more significant achievement is the overall improvement in all areas of the hospital, which met all the core measures for hospitals.
Kane was careful to give credit to his staff, who took on many of the challenges of the hospital and suggested changes that have helped make Bayonne Medical Center’s operations better. To this, the hospital has instituted employee recognition programs, too.
“No one person has accomplished all this,” he said. “This was a team effort, which involved a lot of individuals.”
Still around to help out
While Kane will have more time for golf, he will still be involved with the hospital, assuming the position of chair of the Board of Directors and will serve as a consultant.Jim Lawler, co owner of BMC, will remain on the hospital’s Board of Directors. as well.
Kane will retire as president and CEO of the hospital effective Jan. 31. Dr. Mark Spektor will succeed Kane as president and CEO, effective Feb. 1.
“My five years at Bayonne Medical Center have been among the most rewarding of my 45-year career in hospital management,” said Kane. “Although it is with mixed emotions that I depart my current position, I know the hospital is in Dr. Spektor’s very capable hands. His work to improve the Emergency Department and enhancements in institutional quality and clinical effectiveness exemplifies his strong leadership skills and commitment to BMC’s success.”