Four Questions: Michael Wall

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Chief Executive Officer, Antelope Valley Hospital

A visionary leader with more than four decades of experience in health care, Michael Wall oversees a 420-bed medical center that has served the Antelope Valley since 1955.

On the web:
Phone: 661-949-5000

As the area’s most equipped medical center, AVH has a tremendous responsibility to the people of the Antelope Valley. How is the hospital evolving to meet the needs of a growing community?
A couple thoughts: First, Measure H went to the voters last year (and) in passed overwhelmingly, 75 percent. That’s a mandate for change. So, we go from a typical five-person district governance structure to a nine-member board. The five district board members, plus three from the community plus me. The board has already appointed the three community members. They are stellar individuals. That’s created stability in terms of the governance. No. 2, we were successful in negotiating a now 10-year agreement with Kaiser during which time they’re not going to build a new hospital. We’ve got a facility that’s 50 years old. By 2030, we’ve got huge seismic issues [that would cost more than $300 million to address]. Why would you spend $300 million on a 50-year-old building, as opposed to finding a way to finance a new, state-of-the-art medical center? That is a top priority for me right now.

In April, AVH surgeons Emery Chen and Rafael Lemus-Rangel performed the area’s first transversus abdominus release (TAR) surgery using the hospital’s da Vinci robotic surgical system. How important is the continued expansion of robotic surgery?
The bottom line is, you’re going to see continued innovation with technology. It’s going to create more patient procedures done on an out-patient basis and the recovery times are going to be faster. So, as these new technologies, these new procedures, come into play, what I’m trying to create here is the culture. … At the same time, I have to have some rigor and discipline on the financial side. When you have a philosophy of an open door, doctors feel comfortable. They can come in, they can pitch an idea and then we put the rigor and discipline into, ‘OK, what’s the business plan? What’s the technology going to cost? What manpower is it going to cost? What is different than what we’re doing now?’ Or, if it’s a new procedure, ‘Where are the patients going to come from?’ We don’t just want to add technology and then end up losing (money) on every patient.

What other advances do you see on the horizon for the health care sector as a whole and, specifically, for AVH?
Technology will continue to enhance the quality and safety of health care. From surgical advances allowing for less-invasive procedures to cutting the turnaround time for lab tests, we are constantly seeking ways to leverage technology in ways that simultaneously improve efficiency and the patient experience. Some current examples of our use of technology include being the only hospital in the area to have an attachment for our da Vinci Robotic Surgical System that allows us to perform ultra-precise, minimally-invasive head-and-neck procedures and our state-of-the-art cath lab, which provides the most detailed view of the heart and vascular system.

What is one thing that would surprise people to know about AVH?
While there are a lot of facts about Antelope Valley Hospital that surprise people, I think our having some of the largest patient volumes in California is at the top of the list. We are home to the third busiest emergency room in the state. Each year we care for more than 1,200 traumas and 1,000 strokes and deliver well over 5,000 babies.

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