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Hamill happy he's back in health care field

December 02, 2000

Hamill happy he's back in health care field



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


The new president and chief executive officer of Washington County Health Systems Inc. said that the organization will strive to meet the community's changing needs and provide service "beyond the borders of Washington County."

The health system will expand its services to meet the growing health care demands of individuals, businesses and local governments in the Tri-State area, James Hamill said Thursday.

"There's going to be a very aggressive agenda in terms of either strengthening or forming those relationships," said Hamill, 56, who succeeded retiring president Horace Murphy in September.

Hamill and his wife, Pat, moved to Washington County on Friday from their home in Edgewater, Md.

He said the "extraordinary" health system management team prepared well for the change in leadership.

"The transition has been as positive and constructive as you could ever hope for," Hamill said. "I've been delighted."

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As president and CEO, he is responsible to the health system's board of directors for the overall performance of Washington County Hospital Association, Washington County Hospital Endowment Fund Inc. and Antietam Health Services Inc.

Hamill said he had a "good feel" for the health system's major components upon taking the helm. But he has been struck by the sophistication and depth of some of its programs and the range of services it offers to employers, he said.

"We truly have significant capability in that area and we will build on that in the future," Hamill said.

Hamill is working with the board of directors to update the health system's strategic plan, and will begin in January compiling the system's operating and capital budgets, he said.

The capital budget will include major renovations to Washington County Hospital and a 50 percent expansion of Robinwood Medical Center, reflecting the community's demand for more services, Hamill said.

The hospital's emergency room had more than 65,000 visits this year, he said.

That's just one aspect of the complex organization, Hamill said.

With an annual payroll of more than $100 million, the health system's nearly 2,800-strong work force makes it the second largest employer in Washington County, behind the county Board of Education.

Utility bills total nearly $4 million a year. Daily, about 2,000 meals are served, 5,000 pounds of linens are processed and two tons of trash are burned at the hospital, Hamill said.

"There's just a lot of activity across the board," he said. "We're interested in the quality of service we provide, given the complexity."

A big part of the president's job is understanding and addressing issues that face health professionals - such as federal and state regulations, reimbursement and manpower - in a positive and constructive way to create the proper environment for medical staff members to do their jobs, Hamill said.

Health System Board Chairman Richard Phoebus has said that Hamill's record as a consensus builder makes him a good fit for his position.

Hamill said he works to balance the interests of hospital employees, medical staff, patients and the community.

"For me, the challenge is to find the best solution to the problem and get people to commit to it and move forward," he said.

He tries to keep his staff focused on its mission - to help patients - and remind them that the health system is strong because of the people who comprise it, Hamill said.

"The essence of the organization is people taking care of people, and that's how we run the place," he said.

An Army veteran who served in combat in Vietnam, Hamill holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Georgetown University and a master's degree in health care administration from Georgia State University.

He is nationally certified in health care administration by the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Hamill said he entered the health care industry 27 years ago because he wanted a career "that improved the quality of life in communities."

He has headed health care organizations since 1978, most recently serving as president and CEO of Holy Cross Health in Silver Spring, Md. Hamill left that post in 1997 to take a position with Quintiles Transnational Corp.

After spending nearly three years in Virginia as the chief operating officer for the large international pharmaceutical firm, Hamill said, he wanted to once again reap the more tangible rewards gained by providing community health care.

In his role, he sees managers and doctors put programs in place that truly make a difference in meeting the public's health care needs, he said.

"I really enjoy watching a program go live that somebody believed would be important to the community," Hamill said.

Washington County Health Systems' strong reputation and location attracted him to the job, he said.

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