VIRTUAL TOUR – 2 p.m. Zoom meeting featuring walk through of exhibit ‘Highlights of American Folk Art’ with manager of arts education Kevin Gray. Free, registration required. Suggested donation $5. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
Someone was remarking the other day that, over almost four decades, Otsego County had two key players that could be called upon in any crisis.
One, Bill Streck, Bassett Healthcare Network president/CEO since 1984, who spent years developing contacts in Albany. A Democrat, he was a go-to guy around here, someone who could call the Governor’s Office and expect an answer.
Two, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who served in Albany from 1986 until this past Dec. 31, rising to leadership and maintaining it until the Senate shifted to the Democrats. Even then, he – like Streck – knew where the levers of power were and how to push them.
In the past year Streck, 74, and Seward, 69, both retired. In tackling the largest crisis in a century, which arguably the COVID-19 pandemic is, their departures left a void.
Anticipating 36-year state Sen. Jim Seward’s retirement, Bassett President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim “asked me to join his team” when the two met for the first time last fall, the senator said.
Conversations continued, and Friday, Feb. 12, Ibrahim made it official: Seward has joined the hospital network as a “strategic affairs liaison,” offering advice on a part-time basis on how it can interact with Albany to obtain the best outcomes.
In an interview, Ibrahim reported that Carolyn Lewis, former county economic development director, has been promoted from a Friends of Bassett role to director of public & legislative affairs, leading the hospital’s lobbying effort, and Seward’s expertise will be available to her.
“As a senator,” Ibrahim said, Seward “was a strong advocate of programs that support the health and well-being of the people in our region. (This) is a natural extension of Jim’s life and career.”
For his part, Seward pointed out that state Ethics Law prohibits state legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving office; but he can approach his contacts in the Executive Branch, which includes the state Department of Health and other agency systems that Bassett depends on.
And he knows who makes what decisions.
“I was very impressed with Tommy,” said Seward. “Since coming here, he’s put together a new management team. They’ve been developing a vision and a plan going forward. I look forward to doing whatever I can to assist the Bassett leadership.”’
Seward, who represented Otsego County in Albany for 36 years before retiring Dec. 31, said, “I’m ready to tackle new things. But I’m also glad to do this on a part-time basis. I do want to smell the roses a bit, too.”
‘OneBassett” is here, Network President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim announced Friday, Dec. 11, and it will lead Bassett Healthcare Network to profitability after four years in the red.
In an interview, Ibrahim said the reorganization of the eight-county system that began when he arrived in June from Integris Health Systems in Oklahoma is largely complete. Still, “we’re in the first stages of transformation,” he said. “Now the real work begins.”
As an example of where the 5,200-job organization is going, he cited Human Resources, which has unified all network hiring at www.bassett.org/careers, under the direction of Melanie Craig, Human Resources, Employment & Employee Relations.
Click through, and you can quickly find out about all jobs available in the system.
Until now, he said, there have been “five hospitals with five different levels of quality, service, efficiency and costs.”
As with the Human Resources piece, fully implementing the new concept is going to require broadband to be fully implemented, and Ibrahim said he’s received “encouraging news” through Congressman Antonio Delgado’s office that greater funding for that will be forthcoming.
Friday’s announcement included details of a reorganization into a North Region (Bassett and Little Falls hospitals) and a South Region (Cobleskill, Fox in Oneonta and O’Connor in Delhi).
A “System Executive Leadership Team” will administer each: North led by Bassett Hospital President Bill LeCates; South by Cobleskill Regional Hospital President Eric Stein.
Each team has three vice presidents – for operations, medical affairs and nursing – that report to LeCates or Stein, and implement a horizontal management structure aimed at achieving consistent levels of expertise across the region.
This is in addition to a Leadership Team announced over the past few months, led by Ibrahim and including CFO Paul Swinko, COO Jeff Joyner, LeCates and others.
The announcement also included eliminating 41 positions by March, in addition to 15 leadership positions that have already been eliminated in the restructuring. A network-wide program called SCORE (Securing Career Opportunities for Redeployed Employees) will seek to find places for those employees in the new structure.
The network executives will be taking 5-10 percent “voluntary reductions” in pay, with Ibrahim himself taking a 20-percent pay cut.
This, of course, has caused consternation among employees, but Ibrahim is striving to move forward with “compassion, dignity and respect” toward employees who, through the reorganization, are being shifted out of their jobs.
As part of this effort, a seven-page, single-spaced FAQ was emailed to employees Monday, Dec. 15, seeking to allay concerns and detailing available options.
With the reorganization and streamlining, Ibrahim said, the hospital network is aiming to “break even” in 2021, and a return to profitability after that. He said the network has operated in the red for the past four years.
Asked if the restructuring of the network from hospital-centric “silos” to a cross-network system based on areas of medical expertise was one of his successes as chief physician at Integris, he said yes. But similar approaches are being implemented in all successful hospital systems across the country, he added.