“Whether you look at the financial well-being or you look at what our value is to the community, I feel very positive about the outlook of Longmont United,” said Longmont United Hospital CEO Dr. Christina Johnson. Courtesy Justin LeVett Photography

Longmont United Hospital CEO recounts first year in new role

LONGMONT — It’s been a bit more than a year since Longmont United Hospital CEO Dr. Christina Johnson took over as the leader of the hospital, and during that time, she’s faced challenges and triumphs.

“Coming to a new hospital has been a great opportunity to get introduced to new people and get to know new people,” Johnson said during a recent BizWest interview in which she reflected on her first year on the job.

Johnson took over as the hospital’s leader in May 2018 from Joseph Tasse, who had been acting as the interim president and CEO of the hospital since Mitchell Carson departed in October 2017.

A medical doctor who completed residencies in both internal and emergency medicine, Johnson came to LUH from Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, an SCL Health hospital. As Lutheran’s chief operating officer, Johnson led business development of multiple clinical service lines, implemented clinical excellence programs and handled physician recruitment.

Johnson cited the culture at LUH as one of the highlights of her first-year experience.

“It’s just so warm and welcoming,” she said. “… That’s what this place is all about. It’s been a community hospital for 60 years, and it has the same values and community spirit it’s always had.”

A healthy portion of her time and energy has been devoted to the process of integrating LUH in the Centura network. LUH joined the Centura system in 2015, but the alignment process has been ongoing.

“This has been a good time for me to come on board,” Johnson said. “In a lot of ways, I wasn’t all that far behind [longtime LUH employees] because we really hadn’t gotten too far along in the integration process.”

The early integration process “involved a lot of behind-the-scenes mechanics: IT systems, and business platform systems,” she said.

As those necessary — but not particularly flashy — steps have been completed, LUH is able to move the integration process toward more community-facing initiatives such as strengthening relationships with other Centura facilities.

“The goal is for [Centura-aligned hospitals] to not compete with one another, rather to provide a unified brand that enhances the quality of care and service at all of our hospitals,” Johnson said. “… Integrating with Centura has allowed us to effectively project to the marketplace how this hospital is different from another one in town.”

Johnson inherited a tough situation when she took over from Tasse. A month prior to her arrival, the hospital laid off about 30 employees, citing an increase in competition from the newly opened UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital and an overall decrease in people seeking inpatient treatments.

Johnson acknowledged that the arrival of UCHealth created some disruption on the Longmont hospital market, a market in which LUH had been the only game in town for decades.

“There were certainly consumers who wanted to try it out who might have been previously loyal [to LUH],” she said. “We hear of those folks coming back saying, ‘Yeah, I checked it out but I feel better over here [at LUH].’ If you have a new choice, it’s natural to want to try it. But that’s starting to settle out a little bit.”

She added: “It’s not unhealthy to have competition present itself. It gives you a chance to say, ‘Hey, it’s time to up our game a little bit.’”

With Longmont’s growing population, “ultimately the community will need two hospitals,” Johnson said. “Our job is not to dismiss what’s being provided across town. Our job is to emphasize our inherent strengths.”

Longmont United, like all hospitals, is dealing with ongoing industry headwinds.

“What we’re seeing is an increasing number of services moving to an outpatient arena,” Johnson said. “There are always continual [industry] shifts … and health-care dynamics that keep us on our toes regarding staffing levels.”

Despite the challenges, Johnson said she doesn’t anticipate additional “dramatic rightsizing like the organization has gone through before” when about 4 percent of staffers were laid off in 2018.

“We’re much more rightsized, so now it’s about making little [staffing] adjustments,” she said.

Johnson said when she took over, “employees were really uncertain about the future hospital and uncertain about this new relationship with Centura — understandably so.”

Recent staff surveys have indicated “a marked increase in engagement,” she said. “I’m really proud of the work that our leaders have done around owning the issues that are of concern to our associates and involving them in decision-making.”

Johnson said her relationship with the hospital’s board of directors has blossomed during her year on the job.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “Charlotte Tyson has taken over the chair, and she and I talk frequently. It’s her intention — and I fully endorse it — to have the board serve not only in a fiduciary role and a governance role but also as mentors, advisers and supporters of the administrative team.”

Looking into the future, Johnson said she’s confident in LUH’s position in the health-care marketplace.

“Whether you look at the financial well-being or you look at what our value is to the community, I feel very positive about the outlook of Longmont United,” she said.

LONGMONT — It’s been a bit more than a year since Longmont United Hospital CEO Dr. Christina Johnson took over as the leader of the hospital, and during that time, she’s faced challenges and triumphs.

“Coming to a new hospital has been a great opportunity to get introduced to new people and get to know new people,” Johnson said during a recent BizWest interview in which she reflected on her first year on the job.

Johnson took over as the hospital’s leader in May 2018 from Joseph Tasse, who had been acting as the interim president and CEO of the hospital since Mitchell Carson departed in October 2017.

A medical doctor who completed residencies in both internal and emergency medicine, Johnson came to LUH from Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, an SCL Health hospital. As Lutheran’s chief operating officer, Johnson led business development of multiple clinical service lines, implemented clinical excellence programs and handled physician recruitment.

Johnson cited the culture at LUH as one of the highlights of her first-year experience.

“It’s just so warm and welcoming,” she said. “… That’s what this place is all about. It’s been a community hospital for 60 years, and it has the same values and community spirit it’s always had.”

A healthy portion of her time and energy has been devoted to the process of integrating LUH in the Centura network. LUH joined the Centura system in 2015, but the alignment process has been…