During Pete November’s 10 years as Ochsner Health’s chief financial officer, he was at the side of then-CEO Warner Thomas in negotiating a series of acquisitions and partnerships that left the health system’s footprint at eight hospitals and 38 clinics in 2012. Today there are about 48 hospitals and more than 300 clinics.
Now November is in the driver’s seat. California-based Sutter was tapped late last year to replace Thomas, who stepped down to lead the health system.
In his new role, November is trying to manage Ochsner’s growth while addressing increasing health care costs, addressing labor shortages and expanding welfare and other care facilities in the Gulf South.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
It’s been a few months since you took over as CEO, but do you have any more details on the new developments, growth plans you’ll be leading in the coming year?
We’re always looking at different opportunities to increase the number of patients in the markets we’re in, but I’m focused on how we deliver the best possible patient care in the markets we’re in—how we make sure providers have the best resources they need. While I’m focused on growth, I’m also very focused on making sure our operations are optimized and the best they can be.
You have stepped into big shoes. Was it stressful trying to figure out how to fill them?
I really don’t think so. I guess I’m here for the long haul and I always feel responsible for making sure the organization is successful and that we’re doing the right thing for our patients in the community. I felt that responsibility for a long time. One of the things is that when you go out and spend more time with the organization, it realizes that it’s not all about you.
With LCMC’s recent acquisition of Tulane University Hospitals, New Orleans is a two-provider market with two giant systems — Ochsner and LCMC. Is that a good thing for patients and the market overall?
Obviously, I know that marketing, but I don’t get up in the morning and think about what LCMC is doing or what other vendors are doing. We stand up and see what we have to do to be a better company.
Consolidation trends vary from market to market and from organization to organization. Regardless of consolidation, if an organization continues to focus on the right things, many good things can happen.
Rising healthcare costs continue to be a major challenge for healthcare organizations to face. How is Ochsner handling this and trying to help his patients?
As you know, the workforce challenges in healthcare are significant. I have worked in many different areas of healthcare and have never seen anything like this. All my peers say the same thing. So it increases costs. We also have inflation and all the post-pandemic price pressures.
We believe that we must continue to push in the direction of risk-taking and do everything we can to help people manage their care so that they do not end up in our facilities. That means engaging in wellness, investing in our clinics and digital technology and all sorts of other things to keep them out of our emergency rooms and hospitals. The only way to reduce costs is to manage care more proactively.
Having mentioned the workforce challenges, what are you doing to attract and retain employees and where are the shortages most acute?
I’d say it’s across the board. Certainly, nursing is a significant part of it, but it’s across the board so we’re looking at investing in various workforce programs to grow the pipeline of nurses and aides.
We also spend a lot of time on leadership development, employee recognition, doing everything we can to create a place where people want to be.
What about a pay rise?
Absolutely. They’ve increased significantly, and we’ve done a lot of fee adjustments. We see that every day.
Later this year, Ochsner will open the new clinic and ambulatory care facility in Clearview. It also has wellness services and a spa. Will we see more of these popping up around the market?
There is an absolutely huge shift in healthcare towards outpatient and ambulatory care. As an organization, you have to be good at patient care and there is a huge demand for that. But we know now that you need to access these outpatient ambulatory care points to be successful. The Groove in Baton Rouge is a good example. Clearview is a good example. Healthcare is where it’s headed, and for us it’s a marketable thing.
We are always looking at that but we don’t have anything else planned for this market today.
Ochsner has several elder care clinics around the state, including in North Beach and Baton Rouge. Will we see more in the near future?
I think you’ll see a lot of clinics and that’s not just in Louisiana. Those types of clinics are being built in different places and I think what we’ve seen is that the patient experience is better in those places because physicians have more time to work with their patients to help them with chronic diseases and the specialty types of services. People may want.
So, the results are better, and the access is easier and we’re enabling people to stay healthy and enjoy their lives at home. So these are definitely priorities and we have several under construction.