Conemaugh’s new leader anticipates 2019-20 opening of Somerset outpatient center

November 8, 2018

When the Conemaugh Somerset Outpatient Center opens its doors sometime in late 2019 or early 2020, it will be part of a new movement in health care, according to Conemaugh Health System’s new market president, William Caldwell.

“What we’ll have in Somerset — think of it as a very nice diagnostic outpatient center,” he said. “It will be a place that somebody who lives in Somerset can get all their testing done at one location.”

Conemaugh Health System will own and operate the outpatient clinic across from the PennDOT maintenance facility along North Center Avenue.

“We are trying to break ground by early first quarter of next year,” he said. “We are trying to settle down on a date. We’ve got a few more approval types of things we need to do, but first quarter is pretty solid right now.”

“The sooner the better,” he said.

“It is one that we don’t want to drag out. Once we start, we want to move on,” Caldwell said.

A little competition can be good

One thing not contrary to human nature is competition, now seen more clearly between health care systems since Somerset Hospital announced last week that it is moving forward with an affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Caldwell said that how UMPC in Somerset changes health care in the region depends on how it approaches the marketplace.

“I certainly don’t have any significant insight into UPMC,” said Caldwell, who is also CEO of Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.

Caldwell said Conemaugh Health System works well with both UPMC and Highmark, who are rivals in the health care market. UPMC’s venture into the provider side of health care in Somerset County creates a different element of competition, he said.

“I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t think anybody does,” he said.

Learning the ropes

Caldwell was named market president and CEO in July, replacing Steve Tucker, who retired after nearly 33 years of service at the Johnstown-based health system.

Nearly two months after taking the helm, Caldwell is still learning and still making rounds at the four hospitals in the system.

On any given day, he said, he can be found observing day-to-day operations in a specific hospital department or talking with staff to find out what is working and what is not. He likes to take time to read each department’s “learning board,” which charts issues faced by staff along with their resolutions.

Find your passion

Caldwell is happy doing it all and more.

“It is important that you have a passion in life both work-related and outside of work-related,” he said.

“I’m very passionate about about family, kids, grandkids — all those things that are so important in life. In terms of the work side, to me health care is a higher calling . . . I know it is really a nebulous thing, but I think it is real.”

His journey

His journey into health care began with a hospital administration course he took during his senior year in college at the University of Notre Dame.

He was going into construction and construction management before that educational opportunity put a curve into his professional plans.

“I just completely fell in love with health care and had the opportunity to spend some time on projects in hospitals and in physicians’ offices,” Caldwell said.

He credits his Midwestern high school with instilling a sense of social purpose that has been a foundation of his professional life. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Making it interesting

In heath care, Caldwell said, no two days are the same, something else that appealed to him.

“The other neat thing with health care is it is a true team sport,” he said. “Take a hospital, for example. People think of nurses and doctors, but they can’t do their jobs if the environmental services worker, the food worker, the registration person can’t do their job. You think of the varied types of jobs and even on the clinical side, the multiple professions, if you will, (the) pharmacists, respiratory therapists, laboratory technicians, X-ray technicians and that list goes on.”

Everyone contributes to the rapid pace of change in health care, he said.

“It is kind of contrary to human nature, the amount of change that will continue to occur in health care. People don’t like change,” Caldwell said. “If you look back at where medicine has come since the Civil War days, over the past 150 years, the amount of change we saw in that period we will probably see in the next 20 to 25 years.”

Part of the community

Health care organizations need to be part of the community, Caldwell said.

“Health care will always be a major employer,” he said.

“With that there is a certain level of social responsibility that is beyond just a health care mission. You have to be a part of a community from an economic health perspective, a works perspective, those other things that make things work.”

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