"There is a huge sense of optimism and excitement about our future under Prime Healthcare."
By Harold Ambler Contributing Writer
Richard Charest became president of Landmark Medical Center in January 2007. He also serves as the president and CEO of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island, a position he has held since 2000. He has recently been appointed the president and CEO of Prime Healthcare Services – Landmark LLC. Charest is a graduate of Northeastern University with a BS in Pharmacy and Bryant University with an MBA in Healthcare Administration.
Known as a strategic, results-oriented executive, he recently led Landmark Medical Center and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island through five and one-half years of receivership to the successful sale to Prime Healthcare Services.
A native of northern Rhode Island, he serves as a governing board member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. He has held board appointments at the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Heart Association, St. Antoine Residence, Mount St. Rita Health Center, the Rhode Island Blood Center, the Rhode Island Drug Utilization Review Board, the Rhode Island Board of Pharmacy and the Visiting Nurse Service of Greater Woonsocket.
PBN: What has been the best moment since the first of the year and the hospital’s new status and new ownership?
CHAREST: Honestly, after five and a half years of trying to save the hospitals and the employees’ jobs through the Special Mastership process, the best moment was the realization that Prime Healthcare’s acquisition of Landmark Medical Center and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island had secured the future of the two organizations for the residents of Northern Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, as well as the 1,200 jobs of the employees who remained at the hospital during the entire mastership process. It was a community effort (i.e., patients, employees, physicians and community leaders and members along with Prime Healthcare), and we succeeded.
PBN: How are things looking around the hospital – how much construction is taking place, and how disruptive has it been?
CHAREST: There is quite a bit of construction ongoing. We started renovations in the emergency department’s waiting, triage, and registration area. That phase of the project should be completed in March. Renovation and construction have proceeded to the Main Lobby, which should be completed in May. The renovations to the nursing units will begin in the spring. The construction activity has not been disruptive to hospital operations.
PBN: What signs are you seeing of positive change when you come to work in the morning?
CHAREST: The biggest change I’ve noticed is in the faces of the employees and the physicians. There is a huge sense of optimism and excitement about our future under Prime Healthcare.
PBN: What are the largest challenges still facing you as you transition to being a for-profit facility with a new owner?
CHAREST: Relative to patient care, there is literally no operational difference. The challenges that we face moving forward are the same that we faced as a non-profit. If you cannot produce a margin, you cannot advance the mission of the hospital. Prime Healthcare has a team of subject matter experts that visit regularly from California to provide advice on improving operations.
We accomplished much in the year prior to the deal closure while operating under a management advisory agreement with them. We are now continuing that work to optimize operational efficiency. The largest challenge we now face is negotiating contracts with the remaining insurance companies we don’t yet have an agreement with.
PBN: What kinds of technological changes are taking place there?
CHAREST: Prior to acquiring Landmark, Prime Healthcare installed a new telemetry (cardiac monitoring system) throughout the entire hospital. Since then, they have begun acquiring much of the equipment that will be replaced over the next several months, e.g. MRI and other imaging equipment, laboratory equipment, patient beds and furniture, operating room scopes and equipment, drug and supply dispensing systems, and kitchen equipment. Additionally, they are evaluating the information systems that will be deployed throughout all of the hospitals they now own.