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Q&A with Dolan Dalpoas, CEO of Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | July 21, 2020
From the July 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: What attracts staff to the hospital?
DD: Because we’re a small organization, I have the opportunity to meet with all our new colleagues, usually within their first 30 to 60 days. Our conversations are really just about building relationships. I ask each of them what their experience has been at the hospital — they’ll tell me that everyone is so nice and helpful. So if I had to focus on one thing, it’s that people are nice here, they’re kind and compassionate. In addition to that, they’re very good at what they do and take pride in what they do. They contribute to a strong culture in the hospital. I also hear that when I’m out in the community, whether I’m grocery shopping or going to the movies or what have you, because it’s a small town so someone undoubtedly recognizes me.

HCB News: What is your patient makeup like?
DD: Like many small rural hospitals, we serve far more outpatients than patients who require admission. About 85 percent of what we do is on the outpatient side. That’s changed over time and I think it’s changed for the better. We’re able to deliver our mission to our community in a way that allows them to improve their health.

Just a quick story to illustrate that. When I was a physical therapist in the early to mid-1990s, one of my jobs was to go on the inpatient units and make sure all the surgical patients got up and exercised to make sure they didn’t get deconditioned while staying in the hospital. You fast-forward 25 years and now that same patient walks in, goes into our surgery room, gets their procedure and walks out the same day. So the model of care, at least in our small rural community hospital, has changed more toward the outpatient side and we can be very good on the outpatient side because we’ve oriented our hospital around that. It seems to have yielded a lot of health benefits to our community.

HCB News: In a lot of rural communities, it’s an aging population, and I’m wondering if that’s similar to what you’re seeing?
DD: I’d say we’re probably a typical rural county, in that more of our citizens are older than our urban counterparts. From the hospital perspective, Medicare is one of our largest portions of patients that we take care of. I think that speaks to the demographics of our local community.

HCB News: What are the biggest challenges, pre-COVID, facing your hospital?
DD: The biggest challenge we have here, because we’re a small rural community: it’s difficult to attract the talent that you need to drive the mission forward. It’s getting harder. Some of that is due to supply and demand of pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists. Unless they’ve come from a small rural town, it’s hard to attract to a small rural town. Knowing that, we’ve taken steps to provide educational grants and so forth to local students who want a career in healthcare. It’s kind of like what I ended up doing. Because you never know who’s going to lay down roots and stay in your hometown.

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