ALBANY – Imagine traveling to a new town to start a new career in the health care industry. You have anticipated the normal challenges that face you and your family in the process of relocation and professional transition. What you could not have anticipated was that your new career would begin during a worldwide pandemic with a national media spotlight focusing on your new workplace.
Welcome to the world of Christopher M. (Chris) Kane. With more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry behind him, Kane came to Albany to serve as the senior vice president and senior strategy officer at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
Nothing about his transition turned out to be typical. His wife, Sue, has stayed behind to remain close to her mother during the COVID crisis. Kane’s orientation at Phoebe was a nontypical videocast instead of the normal multiday face-to-face introduction to your new corporation and team members.
Kane explained that, under normal circumstances, “Strategic planning in this environment and in all industries is very fuzzy. Imagine someone playing a game of chess. I guess I’m the person standing behind them as an advisor saying, ’This is a move you might consider.’ But it is the collective expertise of the team that ultimately decides which of the various options are chosen.
“As an example, I might say that based on the market and community need, here’s a clinical program that warrants investment. You could have someone say, ‘Well, organizationally we don’t have the capacity to do that right now.’ So, it’s a constantly evolving puzzle. But I’m the one that’s supposed to be monitoring industry trends and other factors.”
Kane explained how Phoebe’s nonprofit status positions the hospital to be able to address health care issue needed in the community that might not be profitable due to cost or low demand.
Just a month ago, he could never have imagined the whirlwind of change that will be facing the health care industry in regard and response to COVID-19.
“Currently, there are people around the country that are reluctant to use health systems because of the anxiety they might catch the virus,” Kane said. “So the immediate challenge is to reassure people that Phoebe and other systems around the country are doing everything they can based on guidelines for cleanliness and safety. That is the immediate challenge.
“As an outsider, I knew some of the people at Phoebe prior to joining the team. But for someone arriving at a time like this to find a command center in place for managing COVID and its implications, I would submit to you that any citizen would be proud to observe how Phoebe Putney has performed during this. Everyone came together, collaborated and the basis for all decisions was what’s in the best interest for the patient.”
Kane acknowledges that the community and health care in general are entering into unknown territory that will force providers with unforeseen challenges brought about by the predicted budgetary shortfalls already being forecast by Gov. Brian Kemp.
“How does this effect the long-term funding for health care? Will the state of Georgia say, ‘We have to cut back, or not increase Medicaid funding?’” Kane asked.
One of the things that the new Phoebe VP says he finds fascinating is the complexity and diversity of the services offered at the hospital. As well as the diversity of the people that are pulled together to provide these services, which must work in a perfectly choreographed manner to meet the needs of each individual patient.
“It’s a constant challenge, but it’s a blast to be involved with this industry and it’s important,” Kane said. “When I was a management consultant, it just wasn’t the same. Your job was to deliver a product and sell the next project. Whereas, this is a mission-based organization. Whether it’s seeing the babies in NICU yesterday or reading reports on a patient that expired. This truly is life and death every day, and that’s special.”
Kane said he already feels welcome in Albany but has been limited in experiencing life here with the restrictions brought about by COVID.
“The people are very friendly,” he said. “It seems like a wonderful community. I just want to partake of it in the near future.”