CENTRAL CAROLINA HOSPITAL: New CEO David Loving seen as hands-on leader

May. 16, 2014 @ 05:25 PM

Two months after he first came to Central Carolina Hospital, and about five weeks since he took over the CEO role completely, David Loving says everything seems to be going smoothly.

Many of the new boss's employees agree. On Friday, Loving walked the halls and talked to every employee he encountered, from doctors to people pushing boxes around, whether it was about business or just saying "hi."

To at least one supervisor at the hospital, it's those kind of interactions that have kept morale high despite the change in leadership, which she said can sometimes be a rocky time.

"I worked somewhere else for 10 years and saw administrators maybe twice outside their offices," said Annette Schlitz, a nurse who serves as director of case management and the intensive care unit.

She said she believes Loving has met with every single director and manager at the hospital at least once already, and that he's also always up for an informal meeting when he runs into someone who needs something.

"He does rounds a lot and talks a lot," Schiltz said. "And that's always good, when they want to know what you think and want. ... I don't have to ask a committee, who asks another committee, who asks administration. I have a direct line to administration."

Loving himself said the hospital as a whole has a good sense of family, and that his predecessor, Doug Doris, left him a good situation. He said he was shocked at a recent employee awards banquet when he met multiple people who had been working at the hospital for 25, 30 or even 35 years. He said that kind of institutional experience can't help but foster good service for patients and good relations internally.

"That's the feeling I've gotten, ... just the teamwork," he said. "Everyone wants to work together for patient care."

Schlitz agreed, saying that at many hospitals, for example, the emergency room and intensive care unit staffs have fierce rivalries. But at CCH, she said, there's actually cross-training between the two departments and a surprising lack of hostility. She said she hopes Loving's leadership will continue that sense of teamwork through the kind of responsiveness and involvement past administrators have shown.

Loving said he was glad to be able to spend a month working jointly with Doris, learning the ropes as well as the hospital's strengths, accomplishments and challenges.

"He was really nice and just pointed me in the right direction," Loving said of Doris, who retired in early April.

Crystal Hickman, the hospital's director of volunteers and public relations, said Loving has gone above and beyond in making himself visible and approachable.

"I remember the first week, he came and stopped and talked to every table in the cafeteria," she said. "I mean, that just doesn't happen."

Loving, who was born in Virginia, grew up in South Carolina and has lived in nearly every Southern state, has a wealth of experience acclimating to new places. After graduating with a political science degree from Furman University — which he attended on a music scholarship to play saxophone — Loving got a job as a consultant with a health care company. He later moved into consulting for hospitals and earned a master's degree in business administration along the way.

In 1992 he took his first hospital CEO job in Alabama, and he followed that up with CEO roles in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Elkin, N.C., before coming to Sanford.

He said the challenges facing CCH and Lee County are fairly common anywhere — diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The hospital also is working on expanding its emergency room and adjusting to the Affordable Care Act. But Loving said he's looking ahead to new opportunities as well, such as a proposal in the General Assembly to lift regulations and allow smaller hospitals such as CCH to perform minor heart surgery for stents.

"We're very interested in determining if that's a service the community needs," he said.