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Q&A: Carroll Hospital’s new president, Garrett Hoover, talks health care, leadership, pandemic response

Garrett Hoover is the new president of Carroll Hospital, effective March 30, 2020
Garrett Hoover is the new president of Carroll Hospital, effective March 30, 2020

Carroll Hospital has new leadership in President Garrett Hoover. Hoover brought more than 30 years of experience in health care administration and was most recently the president and chief operating officer of Corning Hospital, in Corning, New York.

At the end of March, he succeeded Leslie Simmons, who had held the post for the past five years. Simmons is now the executive vice president of LifeBridge Health, of which Carroll Hospital is a part.

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The Times recently caught up with Hoover to learn more about his background, his vision for Carroll Hospital and what it’s like taking a new executive role in a hospital in the middle of a global pandemic.

Q: The Carroll Hospital Board of Directors chose you to fill the role of President and Chief Operating Officer, but can you tell us a bit about why you chose Carroll Hospital? What attracted you to this role in our community?

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A: I am honored to become part of the team at Carroll Hospital and LifeBridge Health. When I started my search, I was looking for a progressive organization that was part of a larger healthcare system with strong values, authentic leadership and accomplishments in quality metrics.

After I started going on a couple of interviews, my choice was easy to make after I got to know more about Carroll Hospital, LifeBridge Health, the team and the wonderful community.

Q: Let’s step back a bit to how you set forth on this career path to begin with. Can you tell us a bit about what attracted you to a career in healthcare management and how you got started?

A: Another great question. It all began about 30 years ago when a board member from a college that I was working at suggested to me that I should consider a career in healthcare administration. At the time, I didn’t realize that he was also a board member at a hospital nearby, and so I was blessed that he became an influential mentor in my life.

And so, my first job in healthcare was in 1988 as an assistant administrator, overseeing human resources, marketing and development functions.

Q: Are there any particular experiences, or lessons you may have drawn from your past roles that you feel will inform your work here in Carroll County?

A: Absolutely. Many. The importance of relationships and values are at the top of the list. Developing relationships based on trust and credibility are fundamental to building a successful organization, and that has been done very well here at Carroll Hospital.

Also my values as a healthcare leader include being fair, honest, consistent, transparent, approachable, authentic, and accountable with everyone. By holding true to these principles, we will continue to be a top-performing hospital in the state of Maryland.

Q: You officially started in this new role on March 30. Taking over the role of president for a system like Carroll Hospital has to be quite the endeavor even in the most quiescent of times, but you started a major new job — at a hospital — just as a global pandemic was sweeping into the community. Tell us about what it’s been like getting up to speed and learning the ropes in such a historic time.

A: Certainly, it’s been quite an interesting time to change jobs, but coming from central New York to Carroll County, Maryland, I’ve been able to observe how the Emergency Operations Center — or Incident Command as we call it — has been operating, and, I’ve been extremely impressed with the level of responsiveness, preparedness, and innovation that has been occurring at Carroll Hospital and across all LifeBridge Health during this COVID pandemic. The teamwork has been excellent.

From an innovation standpoint, the specimen collection drive-through tent on the Carroll Hospital campus was one of the first in the state to be set-up and is very organized. The COVID tent under the ambulatory entrance is equally well done.

Further, the degree of communication and collaboration with the county Health Department and other various state entities has been tremendous and has enabled me to get up-to-speed quickly. The cooperation that took place to create a surge-plan in Shauck Auditorium and the construction of a 10-bed medical hospital by [the Maryland Emergency Management Agency] are additional examples of collaborative work.

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In addition, everyone has been using telehealth — or GoToMeeting, or Skype for meeting — more than ever before. I have been having many conversations with board members, physicians, and community constituents using these applications. I look forward to how we embrace and utilize new telemedicine opportunities for caring for patients — it will certainly be a key strategy for the future.

Q: You must have had your own thoughts about long term goals and projects for the hospital when you started the interview process, and I imagine the novel coronavirus has impacted those as well. Can you tell us about your original vision for your new role, and how this pandemic may have altered your plans?

A: Certainly. First, I wanted to gain an understanding of the status of Carroll Hospital’s current Strategic Plan, Vision 2020. Many projects are underway including the construction of a new patient tower that will provide a state-of-the art 12-bed Critical Care Unit; 22-bed Observation Unit; a new Pediatric Care Center for emergent and inpatient care, Imaging Department among others, is part of the commitment made to the community.

As Carroll Hospital fulfills its Vision 2020, we want to begin looking at the next phase of care delivery and experience. The pandemic has certainly taught us a lot about telemedicine and the need for us to be a regional leader in providing access to prompt and convenient services. So as we begin a renewed strategic assessment we are asking the question, “What are the lessons learned from the pandemic and what does the next three to five years look like?”

As part of that process, we will certainly be looking at leveraging telemedicine, home care and community partnerships that address the continuum of care. These are just a few examples.

Q: Since starting on the job, what’s been the most pleasant surprise you’ve encountered? What about the biggest, perhaps most unexpected challenge?

A: I wouldn’t call it a surprise but rather, I’ve been impressed with all team members at Carroll Hospital; everyone has been kind and approachable. I’m seeing examples of Service Performance Innovation Respect Integrity Teamwork (SPIRIT) values every day.

As for the biggest challenge, well of course it has to be the pandemic that we are dealing with. As I’ve told our associates, no one has a playbook on how the pandemic should be handled and so staff are writing the playbook each and every day by the way in which this crisis is being handled.

Q: Is there anything we haven’t yet discussed you would like to communicate to the community?

A: I think Westminster and the surrounding communities are great, and I’m really excited to be here. I look forward to becoming involved in the community, whenever things become a little more “normal.” Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball.

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My family is also excited to get to know the community and to do some exploring such as an “O’s game” (yes, I’m a baseball fanatic), Museums, Inner Harbor, the area’s restaurants and a chance to golf on any number of excellent area golf courses are just a few examples. We are also excited to join a good church and enroll our 8-year-old son in a great school.

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Q: Lastly, what guilty pleasure have you found to help stay sane during social isolation and the stress of the pandemic (judging by the grocery store shelves, a lot of us here have settled on ice cream)?

A: On weekends, my wife and I enjoy watching “Downton Abbey.” I never used to watch much TV, but this has been entertaining and enjoyable to watch … and potato chips too, (in addition to the ice cream you mentioned).

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