In early October, Brett Antczak was hired as St. Vincent Health’s new CEO following the early resignation of his predecessor, Gary Campbell. Following several weeks in the new job, the Herald reached out to ask Antczak a few questions about his decision to take on the role, his past experience, and what he hopes to achieve while at St. Vincent Health.
How did you decide on Leadville as the next step in your career?
Colorado was one of the first states we lived early on in my career. As the opportunity came up to choose anywhere in the U.S. to spend our next 20 years till retiring, Colorado was the perfect choice. We enjoy being outdoors, hiking, biking, boating, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. After meeting the incredible SVH family and experiencing Leadville we were in love and knew this is where should be.
Much of your career has been in rural healthcare, from Iowa to Texas, as well as other parts of Colorado. What has your experience taught you, and how will it apply to your role in Lake County?
I believe that rural health care often means better healthcare because it is friends and family caring for each other. It is a much more personal setting and there is more availability to spend time with our patients. Rural patients often say that they appreciate that we know them by name. I plan to always promote this family sensibility in Lake County. I have observed that the team at SVH already treats patients as if they were family — my job is to continue to remove barriers and provide opportunities for them to continue. Rural healthcare to me always equates to High Tech and High Touch, meaning the latest availability to medical care with the personal small town gentle touch.
What do you hope to achieve in your first year as St. Vincent Health’s CEO?
That is a big question and this a big year! In 2021 we will open a new hospital; reopen surgical services and hire (a) new physician(s) for our primary care clinic. Opening the new St. Vincent Health is definitely a huge undertaking that is being shouldered by many talented people. Our number one goal is to orchestrate a seamless transition of services with minimal disruption. Planning is underway to support inpatient rooms, radiology services, laboratory services, emergency services, supply services, environmental services, IT services, pharmacy services, and environmental services and administration. We are particularly excited for the relaunch of surgical services in the new hospital; as we strive to offer the best to our patients, we expect to offer procedures for orthopedics, general surgery, cardiology, gynecology, ear nose and throat, and ophthalmology.
What are your long-term goals for your work in Lake County?
My long-term goal is that SVH becomes a flagship hospital that removes barriers to healthcare for all people and grows with the needs for our community.
What do you see as an executive’s role in rural, publicly funded healthcare?
A leader’s role, in any capacity, is to always remove barriers that enable their teams to maximize their potential and performance.
You’ve mentioned your interest in collaborative community healthcare. What does that mean to you, and how will you apply that philosophy in your position as the CEO of a small town’s largest healthcare provider?
COVID-19 has been a great example of collaboration and we have formed new bonds and lines of communication with our colleagues. Offering collaborative community healthcare means we listen to our partners and community members to learn how we can be better. Working with public health, health and human services, mental health, law enforcement and many area agencies, we can make informed decisions and take action for community health. By supporting each other instead of competing with each other, we are able to grow services and opportunities.
With St. Vincent Health expanding its operations to include a new hospital building next year, what will your priorities be in managing Lake County’s growing and shifting healthcare system?
Healthcare does change frequently in regard to regulations and insurances. Every year there are new processes and standards to adapt to. I will always have my eye on opportunities to add services that are in demand, hiring providers, and developing programs that complement our mountain lifestyle and reinforce the sustainability of our hospital. Through collaboration, strategic service line development and allowing residents to stay local for their healthcare, means there is no reason our taxpayers and community should be concerned about the district and its solvency ever again.
You took on your previous role as CEO of the Palo Alto County Health System in Iowa on the heels of layoffs, staffing struggles and financial hardship. St. Vincent Health has faced staff retention issues in the past. What did you do in your time as the CEO of Palo Alto County Health System to address staffing issues, and how will you apply that experience in your new role?
Staff members leave a position when they feel unappreciated, or uninspired. While SVH offers fair and competitive pay, these intangibles are very important. We need to create a family culture of respect, inclusion, growth, education, development, and continually focusing on our “why” we serve in a healthcare capacity. SVH is a family and we should always be working together as one. When we remember that healthcare workers innately want to improve the quality of life for others and we sincerely appreciate them, provide mentorship and opportunities — we build the foundation to retain our teams. I have already begun to focus on these reemphasizing these values. Honestly, from the day I interviewed at SVH I recognized the passion and commitment of the SVH family. All we need to do is continue to cultivate this passion and the values that that already exists.
What do you want Leadville and Lake County residents to know about your work in healthcare?
I believe that even though we might be on the right track, if we are just sitting there, we can still get run over. What is important for those around me to know is that I am passionate about always growing and improving. Healthcare changes rapidly and if we become complacent it easy to fall behind and become obsolete. I believe in investing in the people, technology, and community around me, and together we can grow and become better together.