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Former ECMC CEO Gets Down to Business in Atlanta

Although he’s only been on the job two-and-a-half weeks as head of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Michael Young is already setting a tone similar to the one he successfully employed to turn around our public hospital, ECMC. Grady is the public hospital in Atlanta, and the biggest one in Georgia. It’s also saddled with huge debt, as was ECMC when he arrived here.

Here’s one story covering his arrival, and a couple more stories describing his first actions, pulled from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. If his aggressive, hands-on approach to turning things around is as successful there as it was in Erie County, the citizens will benefit.

On the other hand, he still seems unafraid of kowtowing to the status quo, which may again place him at odds with the established private hospitals in the area. Still, one gets the sense that Young was never in the hospital business to win a golden parachute. As he once told me: “Hospitals don’t have to lose money. They can be run well, like any other business—if that’s what you want to do. You just have to want to do that.”

  • Bruce Fisher

    Small correction — ECMC was not, and is not, “saddled with huge debt.” When we hired Mike Young, ECMC had been run at a deficit since 1946, when Buffalo transferred the hospital to Erie County. We hired a turnaround specialist. We gave him complete management freedom – because we had created a new corporation (the public benefit corporation) that was still public, but independent of the County. In three years, Young and his management team increased revenues, changed businesses, renegotiated many contracts with suppliers and with insurers alike, and took an operation that lost $30 million under the previous CEO to one that earned over $10 million. As for ECMC’s debt, which represents the accumulated debt incurred during the years 1946-2003, it is guaranteed by Erie County, which is also the ultimate obligor. Plus, there is a legal guarantee that Erie County is the backstop, as it was for more than half a century, should the regional trauma center ever suffer a setback. In short, Young did a great job, but debt was not, and is not, a problem for ECMC. All the noise about debt, which gets repeated endlessly around here, was part of the anti-ECMC campaign waged by the debt-ridden, opaque, publicly-subsidized Kaleida organization, which craves all ECMC’s profitable operations. By setting up the ECMC public benefit corporation, Joel Giambra and the State Legislature permanently safeguarded a public utility — now known as New York State’s premiere trauma center. (Whose debt service, at about $7 million a year for a $300 million operation, is peanuts.)

  • Buck Quigley

    Addressing an instance of sloppy writing, I’d like to correct my sentence which reads: “He still seems unafraid of kowtowing to the status quo…” All apologies. What I meant to say was something along the lines of: “He still seems unafraid of going against the status quo.” Quite the opposite meaning.
    I apologize to Young, and to everyone who happened to read my post, taking away the impression that he was a “sell-out” to private hospitals. He was nothing of the sort.
    Young was a unique and talented leader here in WNY, and if I were a betting man, I’d say his same skills and disposition will serve the 100 mile radius around Atlanta that depend upon Grady Memorial for first-rate trauma care will be well served by his no-nonsense attitude.

  • Peter A Reese

    Whether you loved him or hated him, the sad truth is that Michael Young may have been the most effective and capable hospital CEO that we will ever see in WNY.

    Some other matters you will never see published in the Buffalo News:
    1) The CEO of Kaleida alone makes as much money as the entire Young management team at ECMC.
    2) Under Young, ECMC was six times as profitable, per unit of revenue, as Kaleida, even though ECMC treated 42% of WNY Medicaid patients.
    3) Kaleida’s relative lack of profitability is due to its bloated management payroll, not the much touted excessive pay and benefits earned by ECMC’s unionized public service employees.
    3) ECMC prospered financially under Young even though it serves as a convenient dumping ground for the sickest (and most likely to lose money) Medicaid patients in WNY, including many from outside Erie County.
    4) ECMC is, has been, and will continue to be the dumping ground for the unwanted Medicaid patients of Kaleida, the Catholic system, and every other so called private facility in WNY. As Judge NeMoyer pointed out, their enabling legislation requires them to continue this service to all the poor people of all of New York State.
    5) The Buffalo Club gang (BCG) never liked Young because he would not play their stupid political games and pay them off with public funds and perks on demand. In short he put an end to business as usual and actually ran the place in a business-like manner.
    6) Young knew he was unwelcome by the BCG from day one and it really irked him that he was never recognized locally for his ability and accomplishments.
    7) Given his lack of local roots, his obvious national market value as a top notch hospital leader, and all the nonsense being perpetrated illegally in secret by the Western New York Health System bozos, Young would have to be an idiot or a masochist to stay here.
    8) More than half the funds received by local hospitals is derived from public payers such as Medicaid and Medicare. Continuing to pretend that health care in this country is private sector based is an exercise in self-disillusionment.

    Jim Ostrowski is absolutely correct. the top fifty political people in Buffalo should be run out of town on a rail (with an implied warning to those who would replace them). And some of the people on the rails should be the leadership of the Buffalo (Pravda) News.

  • Jim Ostrowski

    In NY State, hospitals are not businesses. I believe it’s illegal to have a for-profit hospital.

    Generally, organizations that do not have to make a profit are run for the self-interest of those who control them. E.g., the Erie Canal Harbor Dev. Corp. For-profit firms must appeal to the self-interest of the customers or go out of business as thousands do every single day.