Taking the temperature of hospital care

Challenges 'more intense than expected' for CMH's Laura Easton
Apr. 23, 2013 @ 08:26 AM

Oh the times, they are a-changing, says the state's first female chair of the N.C. Hospital Association Board of Trustees, Caldwell Memorial Hospital CEO Laura Easton.

Easton served on the association’s board of trustees for three years before becoming chair on Jan. 1 for a one-year term. As a former member of the association’s policy development committee, which addresses legislative or regulatory issues in hospitals, she began to see the complexities that lay before her.

Now, after nearly five months at the board's helm, Easton says new legislators and a new governor present challenging times for the NCHA, which oversees 131 hospitals and more than 192,000 employees across the state. Throw in the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and hospital reimbursements, and she began to see how what was once a clear vision can become muddled over time.

“It is more intense than I expected,” Easton says. “It’s taking a fair amount of my attention.”

But with her nursing background, she knows it all boils down to patient care.

“In health care, everything is in such a state of dynamic change because of the Affordable Care Act,” she adds. “Medicaid and hospital reimbursements are very complex. Despite all the high stakes and unclear change, we have to focus on the patients that we serve.

“Much of our work is with (Raleigh). Let’s make sure we do it the right way.”

According to NCHA President Bill Pully, Easton’s nursing background also has given her a different perspective to lead the hospital industry in North Carolina.

“Nearly all of our chairs have been CEOs (who rose) through the hospital and administrative ranks,” Pully says. “Laura brings as chair a very unique perspective. She has seen health care in every role, and has an understanding of how hospitals work because of her nursing background.”