Case Study on Central Colombia Hospital

This final course assignment will ask students to assume the role of HR Manager as they plan for and respond to the possible acquisition of their hospital by a larger nonprofit health care system. Students will be asked to articulate the role of the HR department in the acquisition, create a communication strategy for the employee community, and anticipate potential HR challenges should the acquisition actually take place.

Assignment instructions:
After reading the background information and case study on Central Colombia Hospital, put yourself in the shoes of HR Manager, Frank Scott. From his perspective, write an 8-10 page paper that addresses the topics below:

1.When it comes to managing change and internal communications, what do you see as the role of your department in the acquisition process at Central Colombia Hospital?
2.Given the newspaper article that has been published, outline a communication strategy for the employee community that you, Green, and the hospital leadership team can implement.
3.From the perspective of managing change and internal communications, what are 3-5 HR concerns you and your employees will face if the acquisition goes forward? What are 3-5 HR concerns to address if the acquisition does not go forward?

Case Study – Central Colombia Hospital

Acquisition: Change and Communications

Organizational Background:

Central Columbia Hospital was founded in 1889 as a nonprofit, community-based health care facility in northeastern Pennsylvania. This 116-bed, acute care facility employs 963 employees and is nestled along the Susquehanna River’s northern branch in Briar Creek. The facility provides general medical and surgical services to the surrounding community of approximately 70,000 people. The hospital is proud of its tradition of upholding its mission to these communities by providing comprehensive health care services in a compassionate, caring and cost-effective manner while maintaining the highest level of professional excellence.

Players

Anita Green, president and chief executive officer
George Stiller, board chairman
Frank Scott, HR manager
Teresa Sullivan, community relations manager

Case Description:

The communications staff at Central Columbia Hospital has fielded a constant flow of e-mails, phone calls and letters after an article ran in last week’s Columbia Times titled “Hospital in Talks to Be Acquired.” Central Columbia’s board of directors is currently evaluating the most recent proposal in which the hospital would be acquired by Miners Health System, a larger nonprofit health care system that supports the health care needs of many of the northern and eastern communities. Miners has expressed interest due to its long-term strategy of expanding into additional markets.

Similar to the initial proposal, this recent proposal could have a dramatic impact on how the hospital operates by changing the structure, systems and practices currently in place. Conversations at the board and senior leadership levels have included discussions on patient outcomes, patient satisfaction and staffing ratios. Miners is a similar organization in that it is a nonprofit, but it has acquired two other hospitals in the past eight years that resulted in a transformation of the system’s organizational culture.

Central Columbia’s independent 125-year history and its deep-rooted culture is not lost on the board or senior leadership, and the senior leadership team plans to dedicate much of its weekly meeting to discussing the implications of the potential acquisition from an employee perspective. Although many of the obvious business reasons for entering the arrangement have been discussed between the two entities, Central Columbia has had few conversations focused on organizational culture. Miners’ vice president for HR, Allison Bates, has scheduled a daylong meeting with senior executives from both organizations to compare and contrast the organizational cultures and HR policies and procedures. Miners has separate unions in the nursing and facilities units. Central Columbia currently does not have a unionized workforce.

George Stiller, board chair, has been vocal about his desire not to enter into the arrangement. He strongly opposes having “outsiders” in the community running and possibly ruining the proud tradition of Central Columbia. Janet Hillard, vice president of ancillary services, agrees with Stiller and has shared her concerns about the timing of the possible acquisition and its impact on the activities celebrating the hospital’s 125 years in service and on the spirit of the community partnership. Although the senior leadership team is concerned about the long-standing relationship with the community, each member had approached the due diligence process with a guarded yet open mind to this point.

At the weekly senior leadership meeting

“OK, let’s get started. We have a lot of ground to cover at today’s meeting,” announced Anita Green.

“Again, I’m happy that Dr. Stiller is able to join us as we continue our conversation about the possible acquisition by Miners Health System.”

She continued, “In our previous meetings, we discussed the organizational impact from various perspectives. This week, I would like for us to concentrate on the impact on our employees. That is why I asked Frank and Teresa to join us this week. This is the first time the senior leadership team has met since the article in the Times last week. As you all know, Teresa and her team have been closely monitoring the feedback from the community, and we have developed messages to address our external populations. However, my concern is for employees and that the news may potentially affect productivity, quality and morale.”

As she concluded her opening remarks, she turned to Frank Scott, HR manager, “Frank, what have you been hearing from employees and their supervisors?”

Scott has facilitated the hospital’s monthly manager meetings during which the acquisition news was the primary topic of discussion.

He began, “Well obviously, people are afraid they are going to lose their jobs. Managers are hearing plenty of conversations among employees that must be having some impact on their focus and possibly overall work quality. Employees are also frustrated that we would even talk with Miners because we have been independent for so long. In short, they are looking for answers, and we just don’t have anything to give to them right now.”

Stiller interrupted Scott as he was finishing. “Anita, do you plan on talking with employees anytime soon? Quite frankly, I don’t see this quieting down, and I’m sure the Times will be publishing another article in the coming days. I’m certain the local news station is also planning a story. In my opinion, we need to get ahead of this. I can’t tell you how many employees have contacted me in the last week feeling unsettled about the whole situation.”

Green, feeling she was put on the spot, responded quickly, “That is essentially why we are here today, George.”

“It’s probably a good time to let everyone know that Miners’ vice president of HR recently reached out to us to meet and discuss our cultures and HR practices. This is part of Miners’ due diligence process, and I think it is very beneficial for us to know how it operates,” said Scott.

Stiller replied, “Well, they are a union environment, so I suspect they operate much differently than we do.”

After an awkward pause from all in the room, Green asked Scott and Sullivan to schedule a time to hold an open-forum employee session. She also asked Scott to work directly with Allison Bates from Miners to represent Central Columbia’s interests at the upcoming meeting.