Columbia/HCA Chief Discusses Changes in Speech to Employees

By Kurt Eichenwald N. Y. Times News Service | THE JOURNAL RECORD, November 5, 1997 | Go to article overview

Columbia/HCA Chief Discusses Changes in Speech to Employees


Kurt Eichenwald N. Y. Times News Service, THE JOURNAL RECORD


RICHMOND, Va. -- Marking his 100th day as chairman and chief executive of Columbia/HCA Healthcare, Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr. outlined changes he said would fundamentally reshape the health care giant.

In a speech Monday at Columbia Chippenham Medical Center here and broadcast by satellite to employees at more than 340 hospitals, Frist discussed reforms ranging from a new mission statement intended to change the culture of the company to the appointment of new senior executives to oversee legal compliance and quality issues.

Moreover, he hinted at additional changes to come, including a significant reduction in the layers of management as well as the possibility that the company may abandon the Columbia name. Columbia officials said the speech was an important part of Frist's effort to change the direction and focus of the sprawling health care company, which is based in Nashville, as a large criminal and civil investigation continues of many of its business practices. In essence, the company's senior management said they hoped that if employees repeatedly heard that Columbia was abandoning its aggressive focus on short-term financial performance, the message would sink in. "We have to take the company in a new direction," Frist said. "The days when Columbia/HCA was seen as adversarial or in your face, a behind-closed-doors kind of place, is a thing of the past." In his speech, Frist said that the company was adopting a new mission and values statement, which had been compiled with the help of 10,000 employees. The new statement emphasizes a commitment to quality medical care and honesty in business practices. It makes no mention of financial performance. "I'm not addressing the bottom line one bit" in the new statement, Frist said. "But quality is not inconsistent with a solid bottom line and a strong balance sheet. …

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