Oxford hospital gets new administrator

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Bill Henning began Feb. 4 as the new administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. A former resident of Athens, Ga., he already feels a connection with the quintessential Southern university town.
“I’m really looking forward to settling here. I want to put down deep roots,” he said. “Oxford was a good fit, from the professional, personal and family side.”
Henning takes over leadership of the hospital at a time of great transition. Land clearing has already begun on a nearly 160-acre site just west of the existing hospital. Beginning next year, construction will commence on a new facility to replace the current one, which dates back to the early 1960s.
“It’s a very exciting time. Jim Ainsworth and the guys before him did a good job of dealing with the fireworks, so I get to come to the fun part,” Henning said.
It’s also a time when the regional referral center, which serves patients from several north Mississippi counties, is working to enhance its standing. After decades of being a source of pride for the community, Baptist has suffered occasional disappointing rankings in recent years.
“All hospitals are being rated on everything from patient safety, quality of care, patient satisfaction, to patients’ perceptions of customer service,” Henning said. “Baptist is no different, from a system standpoint and as a local hospital. There’s a great deal of work going on for providing an atmosphere of optimal care, patient satisfaction and high safety.”
He added that the disconcerting marks are actually less recent than the public may realize.
“They (measure) a rolling 12 months, and that rolling 12 months is always at least 18 months behind,” he said. “You can have something that happened two-and-a-half years ago, and they’re still building it into the scores.”
Henning said despite the excitement about the facility that will open in 2016 or 2017, the hospital staff must keep its focus on delivering care in the current facility.
“One of the things I asked when I was coming here was, ‘Are we spending the money we need to, to reinvest in the hospital?’” he said. “That’s being done. They have put together the budgets to be sure this facility maintains its [usefulness].”
Henning said while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – commonly known as Obamacare – will change health care, just how those changes will play out remains yet to be seen.
One sure change, he said, is the dizzying development of new technologies.
“Fifteen years ago, if you had your gall bladder out, you probably stayed in the hospital several days,” Henning said. “Now, you may not necessarily stay overnight.”
What will remain the same, he said, is that health care will remain a people profession.
“Every day, we get to affect people’s lives in profound ways,” Henning said.
errol.castens@journalinc.com