Two presidents of health systems come together to create Vandalia Health.
As we read in the news and see around us every day, West Virginia has serious health challenges—diabetes and obesity, smoking, and opioid addiction among them. Helping those who are suffering takes the hands-on, day-to-day work of thousands of dedicated health care practitioners across the state.
But improving the health of West Virginians as a whole requires systemic change. That’s why, this year, we’re honoring six West Virginia health care professionals. As leaders of the largest industry in the state, they are fundamentally changing the ways we think about, practice, and pay for health care. They are our 2023 Changemakers of Care.
“I didn’t come here to merge Mon Health with another system,” Mon Health System’s president—and now CEO and executive vice president of Vandalia Health—David Goldberg says. “The goal was to stay independent.” But as Mon Health went through COVID-19, it became apparent that smaller, regional systems faced increased pressures.
Enter David Ramsey, president and CEO of CAMC, and the merging of the two nonprofit health systems. The cultures of both organizations were aligned, and it made sense to come together to share best practices and resources. In so doing, Vandalia has been able to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes.
“Dave and I both believe in educating future leaders and future providers,” Goldberg says. “We both believe in evidencebased, community-focused medicine—we believe in leading with service, quality, and our outcomes.”
According to Ramsey, now Vandalia’s president and CEO, smaller hospitals all over the country are struggling, and West Virginia is no different. He says that, as a larger academic medical center, Vandalia is able to help secure the viability of those smaller facilities, even to increase services and add new physicians and equipment. Moreover, the organization’s revenues will continue to support West Virginians.
The money a for-profit hospital receives for care can go out of state, Ramsey has noted in media interviews about Vandalia Health. But a nonprofit hospital focuses its funds locally, where decisions are made best, by members of a board of directors that’s based in the community.
Both organizations serve a large population: CAMC is the largest provider in southern West Virginia, while Mon Health—the fourth-largest health system and ninth-largest non-governmental employer in West Virginia—sees more than 300,000 outpatients in a year and nearly 60,000 emergency room visits. Now, under the Vandalia umbrella, the reach of both systems is much greater, both in terms of patient care and employment. Vandalia Health recently acquired Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, has filed regulatory documents to acquire Plateau Medical Center, and has received state approval to build the next smallformat hospital in Harrison County.
“We’re going to be 12, 13 hospitals along with 13,000 to 14,000 employees, becoming the second-largest nongovernmental employer in our state,” Goldberg says. “We have more than a thousand doctors employed or collaborating with us. I think it’s logical, and us coming together means we can be another voice at a statewide level to talk about how we can make health and wellness better for West Virginia. We serve a significant population, and we want to make sure we’re here for the next generation.”
The closure of small hospitals around the country has made it difficult for patients to get care nearby, especially in a rural state like West Virginia where access to transportation can be limited. Ramsey says Vandalia’s goal is to ensure that patients can get as much care as possible close to home. To that end, Vandalia offers telemedicine hubs for patients who may not be able to easily get to a health care facility. He says about 50,000 telemedicine visits will be conducted in a year, making it easier and less expensive for both patients and physicians.
Ramsey and Goldberg believe better health care comes from empowering providers and clinicians. They intend to support the organization’s staff and provide resources for medical professionals and the communities they serve.
“Our job is to take care of people, open up opportunity, and facilitate,” Goldberg says. “That’s the job as a CEO, to be the chief storyteller, the chief growth officer, the chief cheerleader. It’s also to hold people accountable and to be held accountable by our boards and by the communities we serve.” He regularly gives out his personal contact information and answers his own emails.
Both executives are grateful for their roles, a good deal of which is problem-solving.
“I love people, and I love solving problems,” Goldberg says. “I’m a former Shriners kid. I was the recipient of great care as a young child, and it’s never left my psyche. Our job is to care for each other. I think that’s what is so special about West Virginia.”