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Working with a brand-new hospital union and coming out on the positive side of an employee survey. Revamping an entire emergency department – an offshoot of a malpractice case. Establishing a breast health center. Creating an alliance with a major Boston hospital.
All that would be a lot to accomplish over many years, but Sandra L. Coletta did it in just four. Coletta, president and CEO of Kent Hospital in Warwick, took the job in 2008, after putting in 25 years at The Miriam Hospital and Lifespan. And for her efforts, Coletta was named an Industry Leader in the category of health care services.
“I’m very honored,” said Coletta, 53, a Rhode Island native. “I’m so grateful for the letters of support that led to the award and support from various parts of our medical community. It’s not just me, but the whole organization – this award recognizes all their accomplishments.”
To say Coletta hit the ground running is an understatement. Three weeks after she came aboard in 2008, nurses voted to unionize. Coletta had never worked in a union environment, but set about immediately to find the best way to keep everyone happy.
“We talked to everyone and found out they want what we all do – great patient care,” she said. “They’re a partner in that overall goal.”
She implemented employee involvement and engagement strategies that resulted in a 281 percent improvement in employee-survey results, she said.
Another major accomplishment was establishing the Michael J. Woods Institute, a component of a resolution to a malpractice case. In 2007, Woods, brother of actor and Rhode Island native James Woods, died of a heart attack in the emergency room after staffers allegedly ignored signs of the event. The hospital invested $1.25 million in the ER redesign, which resulted in a 67 percent increase in volume and an 80 percent cut in time from patient entry to doctor visit. The average wait time was two hours. Now it’s about 30 minutes.
The leadership of the institute is made up of an oversight panel, including a representative from the Woods family as well as external experts and hospital clinical leaders. A patient-safety officer, trained by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, coordinates the efforts on behalf of the institute on a daily basis, all of which, Coletta said, allows for “significant and creative change.”
Working in collaboration with the senior leadership of Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, Coletta established The Breast Health Center at Kent, which combines the expertise of clinicians from both hospitals. And new this year, the hospitalists at Kent are providing that care for patients at Women & Infants, which Coletta said “is a significant enhancement to their level of care.” (Women & Infants and Kent are both Care New England facilities.)