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BJC's chief executive Lipstein is worth his compensation

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As a 40-year veteran of Washington University Medical School and BJC hospitals, I want to congratulate the Post-Dispatch on reaching the correct conclusion about CEO Steven H. Lipstein's BJC compensation ("Value added," June 4). Lipstein is worth the $3.3 million he received from BJC in 2011. Here's why:

  • In 2011, other St. Louis hospital systems struggled to make a profit, but BJC made $205.8 million in operating income. Most will be plowed back into an extensive updating of the Kingshighway campus buildings over the next several years.
  • Lipstein is serving a six-year term as vice chairman of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute set up by Obamacare to determine which treatments are best for specific diseases. He is the only hospital administrator on the institute's board, which has four doctors and one patient advocate. Lipstein can take the lessons learned at BJC to Washington, D.C., and tell people what works.
  • BJC has not laid off workers as other St. Louis hospital systems have done to save costs. Nearly 50 percent of BJC expenses are spent on employee salaries. BJC recognizes that employees are its most valuable asset.
  • Lipstein is "ahead of the curve" on planning for the reductions in hospital reimbursement that Obamacare mandates. He is moving to include more outlying hospitals in the BJC-affiliated hospital network so that there will be savings through volume.
  • Lipstein demands prompt action when BJC patient health statistics show declines. For example, when congestive heart failure patients in poor north St. Louis ZIP codes showed increased readmission rates, BJC's president went into those neighborhoods and found out from patients what caused the readmissions. Then additional nurses were assigned to those patients to make sure they kept their return appointments to clinic and took their meds.
  • Lipstein and his BJC hospital presidents respond to emails from physicians and staff promptly. He is open to new ideas but requires that those new ideas be proven effective in pilot studies before instituted systemwide.
  • BJC has not had outbreaks of multidrug-resistant bacteria in their ICUs as other tertiary and quartenary hospitals have across the U.S., including the NIH Clinical Center. That is because Lipstein listens to physicians to stamp out bacteria and viruses in the hospitals as soon as they are detected.
  • Lipstein has remained as CEO of BJC despite his "Healthy Wallet" reported by the Post-Dispatch's Jim Doyle On June 2. Imagine what a CEO change now would mean to BJC as the real changes in Obamacare take place. What might happen to those 30,000 BJC employees with another CEO?

Unlike the Post-Dispatch's editorial opinion, I believe the above points show that Lipstein does have a direct effect on patient care. His leadership style can be transformational as FDR was, but can also be incremental with a J.W. Marriott Jr. "What do you think?" transactional approach.

Dr. Robert G. Levitt  •  Clayton

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