Steve Rose is honored for his role in Nanticoke Health's turn around

By Lynn R. Parks

When Steve Rose took over the reins of Nanticoke Health Services, the organization, including its Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, were in decline. It had seen three straight years of financial losses, totaling $11 million.

The hospital's emergency department had lost its state certification as a level III trauma center, meaning that ambulances were passing the hospital by, taking patients elsewhere. The fifth floor was closed, as was the first-floor pediatric ward, and the Cancer Care Center had very few patients.

The hospital was shrinking.

"Nanticoke was adrift," Tom Brown, senior vice president of Nanticoke Health Services and president of the Nanticoke Physician Network, told members of the Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce at the chamber's annual dinner last week. "We had lost our focus. We were struggling operationally, financially and spiritually."

Rose, who took over the leadership position in November 2008, was the fourth CEO to head Nanticoke in four years.

"Everyone was watching what he did," Brown said. "The community, the employees and even the state."

And Rose, under all of that scrutiny and with the financial clock ticking, succeeded, Brown said. The hospital has its trauma center certification back. It has opened a fifth-floor surgery center and reopened the pediatric ward, offers cardiac catheterization round the clock and is an award-winning stroke treatment center. The Cancer Care Center is so busy that planners are considering adding on.

Last year, Nanticoke ended $7 million in the black.

Rose was honored at last Thursday's dinner as the chamber's business person of the year. "While restoring the community's faith and trust in Nanticoke, Rose and his board of governance, medical staff and employees reminded everyone that hospitals are about service that is measured by patient satisfaction," the chamber said in making the announcement of Rose's award. "Employees agree that Nanticoke is their 'employer of choice' and exhibit that choice through a strong work ethic and teamwork."

Brown said that in preparing his speech, he had asked Nanticoke employees for adjectives to describe Rose.

"People used terms like visionary, genuine, humble, inspirational and mentor," he said. Rose started his tenure at Nanticoke by getting to know the employees there, he added:

"He could have done the textbook thing, getting rid of people. That would have been the safe play. But that's not the play that he chose. He saw the potential in the people who were there, and he kept them. And he convinced them that they were instrumental to the survival of the hospital."

Before turning the podium over to Rose, Brown predicted what the award-winner would say in his acceptance speech. "He's going to tell you that it was not him, that the employees made all the difference," Brown said. "But we had four CEOs in four years. They all had the same materials to work with that Steve had, the same employees. And he was the only one who was able to succeed. Steve brought joy to the workplace. He provided hope, encouragement and a vision for an organization that appeared to be lost, and he expected us to be better than we thought that we could be."

As Brown had predicted, Rose did give credit for Nanticoke's turnaround to the employees. "To be a good leader, all you have to do is surround yourself with good people. I am totally surrounded," he said. And he said that a big part of what he called Nanticoke's Cinderella story was supporting its employees. "All that we had to do was restore the pride that people had in what they do," he said.

Rose also thanked his wife, Rosie, whom he called "my rock and my support."

The chamber dinner, which was held at the Seaford Fire Hall, also featured the presentation of the volunteer of the year awards. Chamber executive director Paula Gunson said that Jason Feller, general manager of the Heritage Shore golf club in Bridgeville, and Meagan Miller Sekscinski with Hilyard's Business Solutions in Salisbury, Md., revitalized the chamber with their enthusiasm.

"They jumped right in, doing things when asked and making suggestions," Gunson said.

The chamber also presented a lifetime membership to Spuck Bennett, former owner of Harley-Davidson of Seaford and business person of the year in 2004.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.