Oregon State Hospital invests $1.99 million in consultants

From the Salem Statesman Journal, December 1, 2010

Indiana company is hired to help improve the culture of the psychiatric facility

An Indiana consulting firm has started working at the Oregon State Hospital, launching a $1.99 million project to spur culture change and improvements at the long-troubled psychiatric facility in Salem.

A team from Kaufman Global, based in Indianapolis, is housed in the pharmacy section of the partially built new hospital that is taking shape on the OSH campus.

Hospital Superintendent Greg Roberts said Tuesday in a message to staff that the consultants began their work Monday, and “they have already hit the ground running, meeting with staff and touring the hospital.”

Roberts added: “We are in the process of moving into a new, world-class facility, but we can’t just rely on the bricks and mortar to bring change to the hospital. We have to rebuild the hospital from the inside out. Kaufman Global will help us do that.”

The state’s contract with the firm outlines nine tasks for the consulting team to accomplish, along with tight deadlines.

For example, it calls for the consultants to deliver a written strategy for bringing about cultural change by Jan. 14.

READ – Kaufman Global’s contract with the Oregon State Hospital.

In an interview Tuesday, Roberts told the Statesman Journal that outside expertise was needed to help turn around the 127-year-old institution.

“The honest answer is, they have expertise that we don’t have,” he said. “The things that this contract speaks to and the expertise they are bringing to the table is not what we do best. We’re mental health care treatment providers, not organizational improvers, and they are.”

The consultants will immediately start gathering information by conducting interviews with focus groups at the hospital.

Also planned is a fast-track survey of hospital staff to “get their baseline on the cultural issues and norms of the hospital,” said Nena Strickland, the hospital’s deputy superintendent.

The hiring of change consultants comes on the heels of a critical report issued by Liberty Healthcare, a Pennsylvania-based consulting firm that said in a Sept. 30 report that the hospital has “invested great energy and vigor in striving to improve, but the results to date have been disappointing.

“It is paradoxical that the very efforts to improve the hospital have contributed to the current confusion because changes have been implemented on so many fronts with such rapidity. The sheer volume of change at OSH would overwhelm any organization, but we believe that the essential problem has been the lack of adequate planning and coordination of these improvement efforts.”

The hospital’s push for culture change comes amid a four-year federal investigation into patient care and hospital conditions. It also comes as a new $280 million hospital is being built to replace the existing facility, which was deemed unsafe and obsolete by state-hired consultants in 2005.

Roberts defined culture change this way: “I think in simple terms, it’s how we conduct our business, what type of philosophy we work under. The wellness-recovery philosophy that permeates mental health treatment in the 21st Century requires a change in the way state hospitals across the country do business.”

In his message to hospital staff, Roberts stressed that the Kaufman Global team is “not here to add to the existing criticism of the hospital, but to help us identify what we’re doing well so we can apply it to the entire hospital.

“Instead of doing all of the work for us, they will teach us how to do the work ourselves. With the tools we will learn from the consultants, we will be able to achieve continuous improvements that last into the future long after the contract with Kaufman Global ends on June 30, 2011.”

Strickland said the consultants will help come up with solutions for problems identified in the recent report issued by Liberty Healthcare.

“Not only are they going to be telling us these are areas you need to improve on, but this is how you can approach that,” she said. “And then they will be working with our leaders within the hospital to get it off the ground.”

OUR TWO CENTS – First the problem-solvers diverted, saying the OSH problem is the building. They spent $300+ million. Now the problem-solvers divert again, characterizing the OSH problem as public relations. Maybe the third time will be the charm. (The problem is treatments and services offered more often than not fail to heal and solve.)