Meet the ambassador-in-chief

The Baltimore Sun

Cranes, trucks and teams of construction workers are changing the appearance of Howard County General Hospital a little more every day, but the institution's best-known public face has been consistent for 18 years: that of President and CEO Victor A. Broccolino.

As president, Broccolino is not only the institution's top decision-maker, he is also its biggest public cheerleader, a role his colleagues say comes rather naturally.

"Vic is what I would call our ambassador at large," said Beverly White-Seals, the immediate past chairwoman of the hospital's board of directors. "He is everywhere in the community advocating for the hospital and listening to what people say."

Broccolino summed it up this way: "I'm the front man for these folks, and it's a lot of fun."

Broccolino, 65, lives in Catonsville but grew up in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Baltimore and earned a master's degree in business administration at Loyola College. He moved into health care after working in the banking and finance field.

He said the health care sector was growing fast when he moved to Franklin Square Hospital in 1966. "There was a chance to be a boss there. You are never a boss when you are in finance," he said.

Broccolino moved to Bon Secours Hospital in 1972 and became the CEO there in 1981 before taking the top job at Howard County General Hospital in 1990.

He is an executive who greets every staff person he sees, from doctors to janitorial staff, and his colleagues claim he knows practically every person's name.

"I like being with people," he said. "You have to be willing to listen to other points of view."

Broccolino is fortunate that he enjoys dealing with people, because when asked to describe his daily job, pretty much every priority involves the word "interacting."

First, he said, "I interact a lot with the physicians at the hospital," including 10 department managers who oversee 74 subspecialities.

One area of concern is making sure the hospital has coverage by specialists when patients need them. Where community physicians used to be on call for the hospital, now Broccolino and his staff often have to hire doctors to be available for consultations and emergencies.

"He understands [physicians'] issues," Dr. Michael E. Silverman, a cardiologist and immediate past president of the hospital's professional staff. He said Broccolino's ability to relate to people helps him encourage doctors to work at the hospital and enables him to make the hospital more user-friendly to physicians.

Broccolino interacts on a daily basis with the administrative staff, including six senior vice presidents and the chief operating officer, to keep up with the daily operations of the hospital and its 3,000 staff, physicians, health professionals and volunteers. He also meets one-on-one with board members in addition to attending board meetings.

He said he likes to empower his staff to deal with issues, but he will get involved if needed. When it comes down to a disagreement between him and a staff member, he said his approach is "if you are willing to bet your job, I will support you."

Another key role for Broccolino is interacting with Johns Hopkins Medicine, which became the parent organization for the hospital in 1998. He also said he spends a fair amount of time helping patients secure appointments at Johns Hopkins and picking up the phone to call other hospital CEOs if a person needs to be seen right away at another area facility.

Next, he said, "One of my responsibilities is interacting with many community organizations. That is the most fun."

Broccolino said he saw in Baltimore that the hospital was the cornerstone of stability for its community. Since arriving in Howard County, connecting the hospital to the community has remained one of the CEO's hallmarks.

He requires that administrators in the hospital get involved with at least one community nonprofit organization and includes that role as part of their evaluation. The hospital contributes money to more than 60 community organizations every year, with a particular emphasis on the school system. It also offers health education classes, health fairs and a community wellness center.

Part of Broccolino's role is attending up to 80 events and fundraisers for community organizations every year. He has also been a board member for more than a dozen medical, educational and cultural organizations. Among the most recent is serving as vice chairman for the Community Emergency Response Network, which looks at ways to prepare for a major emergency such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

All those meetings and functions give Broccolino plenty of opportunities to get feedback about his organization.

"Vic is a consummate business man," said Richard Krieg, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation, which gave the hospital a $3.5 million grant this year. "But he is unusual in the sense he has a very finely tuned sense of community. He is constantly talking to people. He not only looks at the numbers, he talks to people about what they feel about the hospital services."

When he began his tenure, Broccolino said the board of trustees asked him to focus on three areas: increase the visibility of the hospital, establish a sound financial plan and improve the administration's relationship with physicians.

Since then, the hospital has built a reputation in pediatrics, obstetrics and perinatology and opened an intensive care unit for newborns. A previous renovation led to the opening in summer 2002 of a new emergency room, labor and delivery area and neonatal intensive care unit.

In fiscal year 2007, 13,799 adult patients were admitted to the hospital and 2,853 babies were born there. Well over 76,000 people were seen in the emergency room.

In the future, Broccolino said, he and his staff want to expand the hospital's cancer services, geriatric services and orthopedic services to respond to the fact that "the county has aged considerably since I've been here."

"I would like to see patient satisfaction increase, see physician satisfaction increase," he said. "Our goal is to be known as a hospital preferred not because of convenience but because we offer quality health care in a variety of areas."

To move toward that goal, Broccolino with his board and staff had to tackle the lack of space that has been a key complaint about the 34-year-old facility.

"It is an extraordinary challenge," said Krieg. "The hospital was built for a much smaller Howard County. The population growth has been enormous."

Most rooms are now semi- private, which is a concern for patient comfort, safety and privacy. Plus, when the hospital gets too full, admitted patients end up staying in the emergency department.

Under Broccolino, the hospital has begun a $105 million construction and renovation plan that will add a five-level pavilion with 90 new private rooms and turn semiprivate rooms into singles. The project will bring the hospital total from 185 beds to 228 and create a new outpatient center, refurbished operating rooms, new cardiac and surgical units and numerous other improvements.

With so much going on, Broccolino said he considers himself and other senior staff to be on call 24/7. But beyond the workweek, he said he only stops in the hospital for a few hours roughly every other weekend.

His free time is saved for a close-knit family that includes his wife of more than 40 years, Tina, their four children and five grandchildren.

"He's a man who is very balanced," said White-Seals, "He works incredible hours and knows the finances inside and out, but he's also the man you see ... playing on the floor with some little kid."

Boccolino says no two days of work have been the same for him. "That diversity is what's wonderful," he said. "You don't get lulled into any kind of sense of security."

The hospital's $105 million campus development plan

Howard County General Hospital is undertaking a $105 million campus development plan that will add two structures and renovate the facility. The goals include making all patient rooms private, expanding the hospital's capacity and upgrading facilities and equipment to be state of the art, hospital officials said.

Philanthropy and grants are expected to supply $30 million of project funding. Bonds will cover $40 million, and earnings generated by the hospital will cover $35 million, the officials said.

The plan includes:

New pavilion

Five levels

110,686 square feet of new space

To include an outpatient center, a 30-bed surgical unit, a 30-bed cardiac/telemetry unit and a 30-bed medical/surgical unit.

Estimated completion: fall 2009

Renovation of current space

Five levels

122,970 square feet to be renovated

To include two fully renovated 600-square-foot operating rooms, 62 private rooms on three units and larger spaces for the laboratory, pharmacy and information technology departments.

Estimated completion: fall 2011

Parking garage

550 spaces for employee vehicles will increase surface parking closer to the hospital for patients and visitors.

Estimated completion: summer 2008

Source: Howard County General Hospital

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