Fil-Am CEO affirms hospital’s ‘safety-net provider’ pledge
DALY CITY, California – When the head honcho of an enterprise personally oversees an event, the company credo resonates.
Over 30 years’ experience in health care administration has taught AHMC Seton Medical Center CEO Anthony Armada to show up bright and early on a Saturday to observe the second 2-day Covid19 vaccination distribution Feb. 27-28 at this city’s first and largest healthcare complex.
Between sauntering back and forth to take calls on his mobile phone, the Filipino American chief executive watched closely as individuals of varying priority categories received their life-saving jabs at the center’s Medical Offices Building on 1850 Sullivan Avenue.
Contrary to a recent raucous vaccine rollout elsewhere in the same city, the activity was almost Zen-like. Each client had an appointment. The longest wait was a few minutes. No one complained as they quietly, patiently inched forward in single file. Even the voice of business development director Tina Ahn, who led volunteers at the registration desk, soothed. Worries about side effects faded in the serenity.
By day’s end, 500 folks were one step away from immunity, thanks to their Moderna shot, compliments of the hospital’s pledge to continue being a “safety-net provider” that it has been since foundation.
“We should have several other opportunities to have vaccine clinics in the upcoming weeks,” Armada told INQUIRER.net. If talks prosper, Seton will partner with Blue Shield TPA to distribute shots starting next month.
Seton had requested the State and County to be a partner vaccine site to ensure access to the demographic it has been serving, Armada added, citing a condition of the 2020 sale of the landmark institution to Southern California-based AHMC Healthcare Inc. by Verity Health.
“Being a ‘safety-net provider’ means that the hospital takes care of a higher percentage of low-income patients as a percentage of overall patients. Our commitment to patients who are uninsured, underinsured and ineligible for governmental assistance or other insurance coverage continues through our charity care policy supporting individuals with family incomes at 500 percent of the federal poverty level and below,” said Armada, who took the helm last year in the much-publicized cliff-hanger transaction.
To his and everyone else’s consternation, the coronavirus hit this country just as Seton ownership changed hands. Armada, who had weathered both “humbling and rewarding” stints in his career, quickly embarked on “a journey of passion.”
“Who would have thought that you would take an organization from bankruptcy, transition to a new company and ownership and re-start new processes, relationships and culture, craft a plan for organizational viability under the auspices of a COVID pandemic,” he depicted the scenario recurring throughout the planet.
A year later today, he has focused on his mandate to “stabilize the organization’ while basically starting over “in the most economic and most effective way,” confident despite the crisis compounding a situation that already started “in a “deficit position.”
He recognized employees and physicians who “stand up to the challenge” by working through seemingly boundless obstacles resulting from the pandemic. And yet the mission remains foremost on his agenda.
When the number of COVID cases peaked and required additional facilities, Seton offered to serve the greater community by signing up to be a “designated space hospital” from March – August 2020. The move backfired, however, with the disease still a mystery. Mixed messaging by authorities, even denial of the risks by the highest officials, discouraged the public from setting foot in the buildings.
“Everyone was under the impression that we were just a Covid hospital; we were painted with the wrong impression,” said Armada.
Bed capacity motivated the decision to step up in the crisis, he stressed, by leading efforts toward treatment and sharing both “learning and best practices on how to care and provide a safe environment during the pandemic.” The choice to take in people with Covid aligned with Seton’s identity as a “community hospital even through challenging times.”
Safety concerns were minimal, said the executive who has headed health care centers since 1990. Specific floors were dedicated Covid -free and Covid -positive during the months of the space designation.
“We had a very active Surge Committee made up of our physicians, clinicians and administrative representatives to apply evidenced-based learning and approach to provide oversight to maintain a safe and quality environment,” he disclosed.
Investment in upgrades
In the next 5 years both the Daly City flagship and the Seton Medical Center Coastside skilled nursing hospital will have a new IT platform to implement contemporary financial application and clinical information system as part of the $10 million AHMC has invested in upgrades. A new CT/PET (Computed Tomography/Positron Emission Tomography) scanner trailer has been purchased to elevate diagnostic capability.
Armada touted investment in human resources via clinical staff to reduce dependence on “temporary travelers staff.”
On tap is the seismic retrofit of patient towers that has beset previous owners and prospective buyers.
Armada is candid about the terms of sale from Verity Health to AHMC when the County Board of Supervisors led by now President David Canepa last year voted 4-1 to fund the buyer $20 million over 4 years to help operate both sites. The Board requested Health Plan of San Mateo to provide half the funding. Armada says AHMC is still waiting for those funds.
As Daly City’s largest employer, Seton is a top contributor to the local economy. Over half the 1,200 personnel are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. A majority are Filipino, said Armada.
Fil-Ams also comprise 3% of “overall managers.” Asian-Ams make up 67% of the senior leadership team, including Armada, who was born in Pasay City a little over 60 years ago and immigrated to the US at age 9.
“Tony” grew up in Michigan and earned his MBA and MHA at Xavier University. His name sports a suffix – FACHE, Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He started out as a medical technologist at a 400-bed facility but switched to administration out of the “joy in coaching and seeing other people succeed and reach the potential they never thought they could.”
His career spans top posts in the healthcare industry from the Midwest to the West Coast. In 2018 he was System COO at Verity Health.
Armada self-identifies as Fil-Am, which shows in his love of family and food, he said. He and wife, Racelle, have two adult daughters living in Chicago. The couple resides in South San Francisco, where Seton overlooks the famous Daly City fog.