Dennis R. “Denny” Bruns has served as president and CEO/president of River Oaks Hospital for more than three years. Bruns earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master’s in health care administration degree from Indiana University. He is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Prior to joining River Oaks, he served as president and CEO of Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory, N.C. He and wife, Vicki, have two children.
Q — What is your work history (can summarize) and how did you become interested in health care administration?
A — I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. … I first got into this field when I went into the Navy … I took every kind of school I could get, including orthopedic tech school. I spent 13 months in Vietnam and started college (at Indiana University) and worked as an EMT and paramedic for six years at the county hospital in Indianapolis. I worked full-time and went to school full-time. … When I graduated, they moved me to the office. I started doing budgets and schedules and evaluating other paramedics. That’s how I got into administration. It appealed to me, so I applied to the graduate school (and then worked in Tennessee, New York, California, South Carolina and North Carolina). … I had been with Tenet Healthcare for 20 years, and I retired. … I was off for three months, and my wife said I had to go back to work.
Q — How has your Jackson experience been compared to your work in various other states?
A — It’s really equivalent to being in California, because it’s so competitive from a health care standpoint. You can look at that in two ways: You can look at it being competitive. You can also look at it as being blessed with great health care. I think Jackson’s got great health care. You’ve got the medical university and all the other hospitals that are in Jackson. It is the backbone of the economy in Mississippi. For example, the annual payroll and benefits in Mississippi are $3.2 billion. That’s just payroll and benefits alone.
The most important asset Mississippi has in my book are the people. I think the people are wonderful. They’re very kind, open and friendly. I’ve always felt very welcome here. I think it’s a wonderful place to be.
Q — How is River Oaks anticipating adapting to impending federal health care reform changes?
A — I think all hospitals are preparing for that in trying to reduce their costs and improve their efficiency and keep their quality high. Because we’re going to be reimbursed on our quality and on patient outcomes and on patient satisfaction. … The big question we have now is: What is really going to be enacted, and what isn’t? And what’s going to be there in 2013 and 2014 … I don’t think any of us know for sure. I think most of the CEOs in the country are planning for the worst, with Medicaid and Medicare cuts. We are trying to be as prudent and efficient as we can without compromising any of the quality.
Q — Tell me about what’s been happening at River Oaks. What are goals for the future?
A — At 33, 34 years of experience as being a CEO and living around the country, I’ve really never seen a hospital like River Oaks. First, the quality of the physicians and the employees is equal to or better than any place I’ve seen. It’s outstanding. When you come in this hospital, you’re treated like a member of the family. It’s very sincere. I think one of the things we’re very proud of is the reputation we maintain in our community. Our medical staff and the quality goals they set are not compromised.
We have one of the lowest nosocomial infection rates in the country. We’re very proud of that. The medical staffs work really hard to drive that down. We have one of the shortest lengths of stay for Medicare patients; we get them in and get them out.
The hospital itself is a great facility. We’ve done a lot of expansion. We’ve added a 146,000-square-foot building with a brand new, state-of-the-art NICU unit in it. It really is a beautiful unit. We are now in the process of adding three new ORs, which will bring us up to about 25 ORs. We do a lot of surgery here. We do orthopedics, ENT, just about any kind of surgery you can think of, neuro, bariatrics. …
We just added a new emergency room, which is very different and contemporary. We’re very proud of our wait times and discharge times. We like to think we can get you in and out of here in under two hours. We can serve twice as many patients as we could before, and we have a fast track for those patients who really don’t need the serious emergency room but maybe have a bad cold or the flu. We get them in and out, and it’s less expensive.
We have a great OB unit. We deliver at this hospital about 1,800 babies a year. We help support the schools in Rankin County with nurses. We like to be involved in community education on health care.
We have (four surgery robots), so the hospital does stay on the cutting edge of technology. We have the fastest CT scanner in the state of Mississippi.
We’re a high-touch, high-tech hospital. We’re very proud of it.
Q — What is an update on HMA’s partnership with University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC)?
A — I think it’s going to be a great marriage. HMA and the University are the two largest hospital providers in the state of Mississippi, so putting us together in a statewide network (HMA has 10 hospitals in Mississippi) is going to be pretty awesome. I think we can help the University, and I think the University can help us. …
We are facing tough circumstances in Mississippi. Not only do we have a shortage of physicians, the residents of our state are disproportionately afflicted with serious conditions such as cancer, obesity and heart disease.
HMA’s affiliation with UMMC is a win for both organizations. Working together, we can increase access to specialty services in rural areas, share best practices related to efficiency and improve overall health care delivery.
Q — What is the impact of HMA hospitals in Mississippi?
A — River Oaks Hospital is one of 10 hospitals operated by Health Management Associates (HMA) in Mississippi. Mississippi’s HMA network employs more than 5,500 people with an annual payroll of $273 million. The company generates annual state taxes in excess of $29 million.
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