Akron Children’s new leader ready for challenges | News, Sports, Jobs
Akron Children’s Hospital’s new CEO takes the reins at an extraordinary time in healthcare – providers across industries are trying to balance high quality care in a cost-effective manner while grappling with a labor shortage and other issues caused by the pandemic.
Challenge # 1 is staffing, said Christopher Gessner, who is about a week away in his new role. Others near the top of the list include reluctance to the COVID-19 vaccine among patients and employees and the changing needs of healthcare.
“We are definitely experiencing the same type of staff shortage as all hospitals”, Gessner said last week on a call with Northeast Ohio media. “The pandemic has turned the job market upside down, and we have felt it hard in healthcare. I would say that we spend half of our time thinking about new ways of providing care, ways to invest in our staff so that we can recruit and retain more effectively… ”
The workforce crisis, he said, is a situation that will not go away anytime soon.
“So I think healthcare leaders are going to be challenged to think about different ways to staff and use technology and remote monitoring, etc., to make our staff more efficient and productive so that we can manage the care needs that arise ” Gessner, chairman / CEO, said.
At Akron Children’s, part of the solution to the shortage is focusing on retention, retaining long-term employees, and listening and meeting their needs. This could include paid and hybrid work models, he said.
Gessner, whose first day was Monday, grew up in Ligonier, Pa., Southeast of Pittsburgh. He comes from UCHealth Hospital at the University of Colorado, where he has served as President / CEO since 2019, to succeed former President / CEO Grace Wakulchik, who retired with a 40-year career in the health care. She had been in the role since 2018.
The system has a strong presence in the Mahoning Valley, including its Beeghly campus in Boardman.
Akron Children’s has not put in place a mandate on the COVID-19 vaccine, but will soon put in place a policy that requires employees who choose not to receive the vaccine to be tested at least once a week, Gessner said. .
He called it a “very reasonable approach” but strongly encourages all workers in the system to get vaccinated.
“We’re a place where sick children come and a lot of them are immunosuppressed, and if for some reason God forbid, an immunosuppressed child, or an adult, gets the virus, it can be very, very problematic, “ said Gessner. “I think we are held to a higher standard as health care providers to try to get so many of our people vaccinated, and if not, we have to do everything we can to make sure people feel safe to come. to Akron Children’s Hospital for their care. . “
To deliver vaccines to teens and teens, Akron Children’s does about 2,000 per month and overall has administered the vaccine to about 15,000 people. If the vaccine is suitable for children aged 5 to 11, the system will also play an active role in immunizing this age group.
It offers the vaccine on its two hospital campuses – Akron and Boardman – in the system’s pediatric offices and is present in several school districts in the region, “We will therefore be in a good position to provide excellent access to these vaccines”, said Gessner.
The son of a pediatrician, Gessner said he believes the vaccine to be safe and effective and while children may not get as sick if they contract the virus, they can still pass it on to others.
“I think it’s part of our job here at Children’s to help parents understand the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine and the importance of getting the vaccine. he said.
Gessner said he hasn’t been in office long enough to get a good idea of Akron Children’s future in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, but he plans to visit the area this week.
Mahoning Valley from Akron Children to Boardman over the next 12 to 15 months will see a substantial improvement with the addition of a new $ 31 million emergency department. The new facility will be more than triple the size of the existing department and will increase the number of treatment rooms from six to 23.
In 2019, the system invested $ 2.3 million to expand its youth behavioral health program on the Beeghly campus. During the pandemic, the need for behavioral health services increased among children, adolescents and adolescents – their routines and lives were turned upside down, they were taken out of school and activities, prevented from seeing their friends and their families and those who have returned to school must wear masks and social distancing.
Gessner said one of his priorities is to integrate behavioral health care and physical health care. This is something that was done during his nearly 20 years in administrative roles, including president from 2008 to 2019, at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“It made a huge difference in the lives of families, the doctors felt supported, the patients felt supported, the parents like it” said Gessner. “At least everywhere I’ve been, we’ve integrated behavioral health care and physical care into all of the different wards.
“So I firmly believe that mental health professionals, behavioral health professionals and medical clinicians working together as a team produce the best results, and I am very happy to see this commitment here at Akron as well.” said Gessner.