For more than 30 years, Bob Chaloner has dedicated his career to the preservation, reorganization and turnaround of struggling community hospitals. As the president and CEO of Southampton Hospital™ in Southampton, New York, he successfully led the effort to stabilize and rebuild the hospital’s financial and operating performance, as well as reestablish its reputation in the community.
His mother was a nurse, and he is the son and great-grandson of physicians, so Bob was “destined” to become a doctor. But, as he says, he enjoyed socializing with his Dartmouth fraternity brothers a bit too much, so he never made it to medical school. But after working as an EKG technician and expressing an interest in the hospital environment, his father suggested hospital administration as a career. This prompted him to pursue two Master’s degrees at Columbia, one in urban planning, the other in public health administration, and later an MBA from NYU.
“It has nothing to do with book smarts but a lot to do with listening, learning humility and admitting I didn’t always know the answers.”
“When you go to school, you don’t necessarily know how hospitals work or how to manage organizations and people,” he says. “It has nothing to do with book smarts but a lot to do with listening, learning, humility, and admitting I didn’t always know the answers.” Among healthcare practitioners, he adds, you have to earn credibility as a non-clinician. “Until then,” he says, “you’re just a suit.”
As he learned, he climbed the management ladder at several New York area hospitals—including Lenox Hill and Cabrini Medical Center—and came to understand that the key was motivating others, challenging them to want to do well.
“I saw a lack of confidence at Southampton Hospital when I arrived in 2006,” he explains. “I was impressed with the people here, but they didn’t realize how much the organization had to offer. “So Bob’s challenge was to restore confidence, which he did by promoting a positive attitude, teamwork (no silos), and a willingness to learn.
Bob and CFO Chris Schultheis also began to solve deep financial problems, which were leading the hospital toward bankruptcy. They did so by re-negotiating reimbursement rates and cutting costs, though Bob is quick to add that it didn’t include layoffs. In fact, he added more nurses and doctors—the people who attract patients.
The hospital also expanded its ambulatory services, which created more demand in the winter months to balance out the high volume in this popular summer community. The result: a financially secure hospital, a top-flight staff of motivated professionals and a solid reputation in the community. Just what you need to save lives.
“IDB was the first bank we met when we were putting out RFPs, and I was ready to do a deal on the first meeting. The people at IDB were honest, showed character, understood our mission as a non-profit community healthcare center, and they were passionate about being our partner. There was no ego or attitude. And they have followed through on every commitment they’ve made.”
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