Health & Education

Jeffrey Lorenz takes helm of Tribal Health Services

03.13.2014 Dean Rhodes Health & Wellness, Tribal employees

After a year without a Health Services executive director, the Tribe has chosen Jeffrey Lorenz, 56, to fill the vacancy.

Lorenz comes from a background that encourages and supports employees, patients and local communities.

As chief operating officer of Silverton Health, his most recent position, he used these strategies to increase patient visits and income to the nearly bankrupt facility. The new money went to reinvestment in an upgrade to the old facility and to a host of new services.

He was invited to join Silverton Hospital's staff 22 years ago by Bill Winter, a preceptor for George Washington University's residency program.

Lorenz earned his master's of Health Administration degree at George Washington University in 1984. For 28 years, Lorenz worked under Winter at both Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro and the facility in Silverton.

Starting as both chief financial officer and chief operating officer in Silverton, Lorenz orchestrated a remarkable turnaround.

Despite the shape of the place, he found a supportive staff and community. Early on, he "passed the hat" around the community and raised $1 million to keep the hospital afloat and begin a transformative remodeling process. The community anteed up another $1 million before the building and program renovations were complete.

He evaluated services and made operational changes to "make things work better and provide great service. I wanted to make sure we were wowing people," he said.

The hospital became more efficient. The needs of both staff and patients improved. "If I meet staff needs," he said, "then they meet patient needs."

In a nutshell, his philosophy is, "I work for them. I like to be able to tell patients, 'Yes, we can do that.' "

On an administrative level, efficiencies followed a number of actions, including taking back operation of the pharmacy, negotiating better reimbursements from insurance companies, opening clinics in areas beyond the hospital's usual patient base and improving the facility's "flow and processes."

On a patient-centered level, the hospital did things like sending dinner home with mothers who had just given birth at the hospital.

The rejuvenated hospital began building a reputation as a place with a family atmosphere.

The process took time. In 1990, when he arrived, 14 physicians worked in the hospital. None of them were specialists and none were female. In-patient rooms were four- and five-bed wards with common bathrooms in the hall. Many halls led to dead ends. The local fire marshal frequently reported the need for safety improvements.

At that time, hospital births were about 40 a month, emergency visits were 60 to 80, and surgeries were in the low 30s.

Five years later, after the first phase of an extensive remodel, all the patient rooms held two at most "and we tried hard to keep them private as much as possible," Lorenz said. Bath facilities were brought into rooms. A new patient care section emerged with a central nursing center.

By 1998, the second phase had turned the old patient areas into management offices and surgery suites. The remodel, along with satellite facilities that brought in patients from the surrounding area, resulted in a hospital doing 160 births a month, 2,000 emergency visits and 200 surgeries.

"We were hopping," Lorenz said.

By then, half of the 80 medical providers were women.

Throughout his career, Lorenz has been passionate about his work. While still in high school, he started with a summer work/study volunteer job transporting patients to the local hospital in his hometown of Wallingford, Pa., on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

A friend's father who was a physician asked him if he would like to learn to draw blood.

"I got pretty proficient at it," he said. "I was really interested in science, and they taught me to operate the machine that analyzes blood."

At that time, he wanted to be a physician, but later learned that he had a better instinct for administrative and management work, and he turned his education in that direction.

Throughout his career, starting all the way back in high school, Lorenz has made every effort to broaden his knowledge, taking on new working experiences and staying until he learned everything about the job, and much about the jobs he supervised.

While at Tuality Community, he took on staff responsibility as director of Administrative Services, and at the same time he was picking up line management experience as manager of two immediate care centers. For a couple of years, he added to those a position as director of Home Health Services.

There is one exception, however, to this record of success. Though he plays golf every week, he said, "I can't seem to put two good nines together."

Lorenz lives in northeast Salem with his wife and two daughters. The couple's oldest child, a son, has opened his own business in Beaverton.

He succeeds Mark Johnston, the Tribe's general manager, in the position.