HL20: Wright L. Lassiter III—Getting Better All the Time

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , December 13, 2011

It wouldn't be accurate to say that there was a crisis in leadership at ACMC before Lassiter arrived, because there was no leadership. ACMC had chewed up and spat out 10 CEOs in the 10 years before him.

"What I inherited was the view that the CEO was a turnstile and a place of instability," he says. "Because the CEO role rotated so much, there was a fair amount of churn in the senior leadership and there was instability in leadership and direction."

ACMC's finances were a disaster. The health system's balance sheets were hemorrhaging red ink. ACMC owed the county about $200 million, with no immediate prospects for repayment. The mostly unionized staff was mired in a status quo culture of frustration, suspicion, and apathy.

Even with that uncertainty, Lassiter took the job because he was assured by the system's newly appointed board that it would support a change in culture. The public had also demonstrated its support for the mission before his arrival when it approve a sales tax hike that would generate about $75 million annually for the health system.

With the system's financial problems apparently stabilized, Lassiter says he planned to spend his first few weeks at ACMC "learning and listening to understand what the key priorities were, and then deciding where to go." That listening tour was scotched within the first week, however, "when I arrived and the first set of financials I saw showed that the organization was losing about $1 million a month," he says. "That was not something that was projected in the budget and it was something the board had not been made aware of. I had to plug a hole in a ship that was leaking oil badly. That was first priority."

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1 comments on "HL20: Wright L. Lassiter III—Getting Better All the Time"

Labeeb Hameed (12/14/2011 at 10:36 AM)
Wright L. Lassiter, III's work and accomplishments in righting a sinking ship is laudable to say the least. He's a prototype of the quality of leadership that is direly needed not only in the healthcare industry in Oakland but nationwide as well.




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