John Spicer Interview Re: Sound Shore Medical Center/ Mt. Vernon Medical Center Merger with Montefiorre Medical Center

William O’Shaughnessy

 Exclusive interview with 

John Spicer

President, Sound Shore Health System

Re:

Sound Shore Medical Center/ Mt. Vernon Medical Center

Merger with Montefiorre Medical Center 

May 29, 2013

WVOX and WVIP Worldwide

William O’Shaughnessy

John Spicer … President & CEO of our beloved, and it is that, Sound Shore Medical Center – you’re also President & CEO of Mount Vernon Medical Center – I guess this is an historic day for our medical center and local hospital.

John Spicer

Yes, Bill … I think we’re excited about this.  I think it’s a big step for the Sound Shore Health System because it positions us very well going forward into the future which everybody knows is changing very, very quickly.

WO

John Spicer … your new partner … we should put this on the table in front … is Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.  What do you know about them?

JS

Montefiore is one of the leading academic medical centers in the country.  It has some of the largest and finest teaching programs nationwide.  They do draw their patients from all over the world.  They have one of the most highly regarded children’s hospitals in the country.  They are a very large facility – I think almost 1400 beds. 

WO

How many are you in New Rochelle … and in Mt. Vernon?

JF

Well, we’re about 270 in New Rochelle and 150 in Mt. Vernon.

WO

President John Spicer … is this a takeover?  Or a merger?  A partnership … or a wedding?  What is it?

JS

It’s a merger of the two facilities.  But when the dust clears, we are a part of Montefiore.  We will be part of the Montefiore Medical Center Health System and frankly, they’re the lead character here.

WO

You’ve gone uncharacteristically silent in recent days but we know from our sources that Mauro Romita, the oil baron and Richie Naclerio and a guy named Larry Luissi from Armonk and John Dooner from Pelham have been negotiating with Montefiore.  Do you think Montefiore will understand the culture and respect the integrity of Sound Shore and Mt. Vernon?

JS

You know, I think, Bill, it’s one of the real good things that has come out of this.  First of all, you’re right, that Board Steering Committee of ours that also includes Jeff Powers and a young fellow named Darren Diverna … I think they did a very good job and I think Montefiore is very sensitive to the fact we are community based institutions.  And they know it is extraordinarily important for us to be successful that our relationships with the community have to stay. 

So they are sensitive about that.  What form that will take, we’re not sure.  But they know that this is a little different for them.  That these are two community based institutions and they have to listen and pay attention to the wants and needs of the community.

WO

John Spicer … on this historic day for southern Westchester, what does Montefiore bring to the table besides a world-class reputation.  We understand … somebody told WVOX that they have $3 billion worth of assets.  How much of that did they bring to the table for this take-over or merger?  

JS

Bill, it’s hard for me to put a number on it.  But there are commitments to re-do both Emergency Rooms.  And to upgrade the physical plants for both institutions.

WO

In Mt. Vernon and New Rochelle …? 

JS

Yes … in Mt. Vernon and New Rochelle. 

WO

We’re going to get new Emergency Rooms, what else?

JS

A New Patient Care Unit.  A number of infrastructure improvements, meaning new boilers, new roofs.  So they’re committing a significant amount of resources to upgrade facilities – both at Mt. Vernon and Sound Shore.  We are going to go through a restructuring process and they’re putting significant resources behind that, in the $60 million-plus range.  So they’re committing a lot of money.

WO

So they put up $60 million on the table?

JS

A minimum, yes.

WO

How about your doctors, John Spicer, are they OK with that?  The local doctors?

JS

The more they are finding out … and we’ve become a little more public with everything, the comfort level is increasing.  Montefiore has said out loud that they are committed to the private practice of medicine and our voluntary attending physicians, Montefiore has a couple of mechanisms within their structure, meaning the Montefiore IPA – which is an Independent Practice Association – which helps doctors improve their rates with insurers.  And I think more and more our physicians are very comfortable with the entire process.

WO

Speaking of comfortable, how about Ken Raske, he’s a very powerful guy in your field, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association?  And incidentally, we found out that Dr. Steven Safyer, the chief of Montefiore, their president or chairman, is head of that group.  Is Ken Raske signed off on this deal?

JS

Bill, I think Ken is going to be ecstatic about this because he was instrumental in getting the two of us together.  I think he feels that given the current environment in health care, he wanted to protect his local hospital – which is us – and I think he’s going to be very, very happy and very supportive that this deal is done.

WO

We’re asking you these questions, John Spicer, because no matter the name, no matter the structure, no matter the shingle – if you’re scrambling or if somebody in your family is critically ill at three in the morning, we go to you.  Does Montefiore understand that?

JS

I think deep down they know this as well as anybody.  And I think it will be their mission to make sure everything here only gets better, Bill. 

WO

John Spicer, how about the labor unions, what do they think about this deal?

JS

Well … I think 1199 is very much on board and we’ve had conversations with the nursing union.  I think the employees are very supportive.  They see this as improved security for them.  And a better future for the medical center. 

WO

John Spicer … you succeeded the legendary Alec Norton, a colorful Runyonesque figure.  And George Vecchione, a different kind … low key, bookish guy.  You put your stamp on this medical center for almost 25 years.  Tell us honestly, how do you feel about this? 

JS

Bill, times have changed.  The healthcare industry has changed.  I feel we have put this institution in the best possible light it could be given.  I’m actually very, very happy that it wound up being Montefiore because they have the right strategy in place.  They have the right technology.  They have the right computer expertise.  They know how to manage the care.  This is going to be extraordinarily good for the community.  For the physicians in this community.  And for the Sound Shore Health System.   I’m actually very, very enthusiastic and very pleased that at the tail end of my 25 years here I can actually say to this town, we’re going to leave them with a gem of a healthcare facility.  This is going to be second to none in Westchester. 

WO

So you think, do you not, that the entity you’ve built, the community hospitals you built and sustained, you’re delivering them unto good hands.  You’re sure of that?

JS

Yes.  I’m 100% confident.  And everyday that goes by and everyday we talk to the Montefiore leadership, the more convinced I am that this the absolute right thing to do.  They are a step ahead of everybody else. 

WO

John Spicer, finally, you’re nice to share this exclusive talk with us on a busy day.  And we’re grateful to you and as always, you’ve been a good friend to this radio station. But just so nobody is confused … you flirted with, or they flirted with you, Westchester Medical Center.  That deal fell apart.  Is this deal going to fall apart in the final hours?

JS

No … this deal is done.  Everybody … it’s been a meeting of the minds.  The State Department of Health has been involved.  They’re very happy.  Everybody agrees.  This is good for Sound Shore.  This is good for Montefiore.  It has the makings of a great deal. 

WO

What are they going to call it?  If somebody gets picked up in an ambulance and says … take me to … ?

JS

I’m working on that … if I get a big enough donation out of you … I’m hoping that you’ll say take me to the O’Shaughnessy Pavilion.

WO

How much … $10 million?  What did Langone put up for NYU?

JS

He put up $200 million. But if you give us $5 … I can get that name changed!

WO

John Spicer … you’re highly respected in this community and in your own profession.  Are you going to stick around?

JS

Oh yes … I wouldn’t let this transition go without me being around.  I’m excited about it.

WO

Alright, sir.  Thank you very much.

JS

Thank you, Bill for the time.

# # #

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America.  He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011.  He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with John Spicer.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher
Whitney Media
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com

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