The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

February 19, 2012

General good

“My job, as a CEO, is to take a now good hospital and make it great.”

Allen Peters, chief executive officer of Raleigh General Hospital since August, is actively working with patients, staff and physicians to take RGH to the next level.

He previously worked at Valley View Medical Center in Fort Mohave, Ariz., leading the organization of a $1.2 million expansion of the hospital’s emergency department and an $8 million expansion and renovation of several other hospital departments.

Both Valley View and Raleigh General are owned by the same company, LifePoint Hospitals. Peters was born and raised in Oak Grove, La., and when he heard about the opportunity of moving back east, he was immediately interested.

Before he inquired about the position, Peters says he jumped on a plane one weekend and flew out to Beckley to check out the area.

“I didn’t even stop by the hospital. I just drove by and fell in love with the community and the people here. No one knew why I was in town; they just thought I was here visiting the bridge.”

He only spent four days here, but that’s all it took for him to know West Virginia was the place for him.

“It’s a lot like where I came from in terms of the people. Real, genuine people that care about each other in a tight-knit community.”

He says the transition was easy for his wife, Susan, and their two youngest children who now attend Shady Spring High School.

He also says this has been the easiest transition of his career, by far.

“I classified Raleigh General when I got here as a good hospital. It’s well-positioned. It’s financially stable. There’s a very small margin between good and great in health care, and we are poised and moving in that direction to be a great hospital.”

Some of the items on his agenda are creating additional private rooms, upgrading the facility and creating more parking spaces.

He says he expects that within the year, the board will be “engaged in expanding RGH and building some new private rooms.”

“I love growth. I don’t know if I follow growth or growth follows me. I love building in new investments in the communities. Raleigh General is certainly no exception to that.”

He says in many ways, RGH is already well above other hospitals, especially in terms of technology. “We have technology here that you usually find just at university systems. In that regard, we’re already a great facility.”

So what exactly does a CEO of a hospital do?

“My day-to-day is just going around the organization asking for constituents. I want to know about the patients. I visit patients, go in their rooms and ask them how’s your care, what can we do better to make your care better, what can we do to make this a safer place?”

Peters then poses questions to the employees, such as “What can I do to make RGH a better place to work? What tools do you need to make your job easier?”

Those simple questions have already sparked many ideas that are improving the quality of care for patients.

Peters said one of their employees had a concern about how to know if a patient can’t have blood drawn from one side of their body. A solution was proposed to place a colored armband on the patient that will alert the nurses.

“These are things that our employees come up with every day to make it safer at RGH.”

In addition to making the hospital a safer place, Peters is doing his part to make sure the community is a safer place as well.

Unfortunately, Peters says almost every week someone comes into the emergency department and dies from drug overdose.

“It’s all of our problems. It’s the community’s problem. It’s the law enforcement’s problem. I’ve dealt with this in the community I came from. The No. 1 drug in the school system was prescription drugs. They get these prescription drugs from momma and grandma.”

So Peters asks, “How do we make a difference in our community to make it safer for all of us?

“If they come to our ER and they get a prescription for drugs and they go out and sell them, we’ve become part of the problem. We have to be proactive in helping get drugs off the street. The emergency room is a place where people come if they’re in pain, we’re going to treat them. That’s what we do. And we’re going to treat them every time they come to the ER, but it won’t be a place where they can come to get 50, 75 or 100 pills to go out into the community to sell.

“It makes me sad that we have to address issues like this, to be quite honest. I think it’s part of our duty and my role as a CEO to make sure we’re not contributing to the drug problem in southern West Virginia.”

Peters wants to help the community in other ways as well, such as getting involved with United Way and educating everyone on health issues such as diabetes and obesity.

“We want to take resources and give back to the community that supports us.”

Peters says he wants to ensure that “all of us together are in this to make it safer for our patients, make it a better place for our employees, and an easier place to practice for our physicians.”

“It’s always challenging to get to know personalities. My personality is different from the past CEO that was here. Neither one is good nor bad, just different. So as we seek to inject my personality into the organization, I consider myself just one member of the team.”

With over 1,200 employees, RGH is one of the top employers in Raleigh County.

“Most of our jobs are well-paying jobs. It’s important to the community in that regard, but outside of that, it’s about people taking care of people. Part of my job is to ensure our 1,200 employees are taken care of, that they have the tools that they need to do their job with. They already know how to do their job, I don’t need to tell them how to do that. I just need to create an environment in which they can excel — and that’s what my job is.”

Peters says southern West Virginia is fortunate to have such a great facility and he envisions an even greater one.

“I have a bigger vision for Raleigh General in that we’re not through growing. There are other people that want our services that want to come to us today. Outlying hospitals want to send their patients to us for a higher level of care that we can provide. We simply, many times, don’t have the space for those patients and those patients wind up going to Charleston or other places.”

RGH sees over 51,000 patients each year in the emergency room and admit over 13,000.

“I can make sure every one of those people is touched by someone who cares.”

“We will provide high quality care right here at home. That’s what we do. That’s our mission and that’s what we will ensure.”

Outside of the office, Peters breaks the mold of the stereotypical businessman. He enjoys flying planes, riding motorcycles and traveling.

“I love adventure, seeing new things and new people and different ways of doing things.”

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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