Dr. Murali Naidu has only been Emanuel Medical Center’s top administrator for about a month, but he’s already working to improve patient care and tackling the challenges of COVID-19.
Naidu joined Emanuel Medical Center on Nov. 15. He has served as CEO of Doctors Hospital of Manteca since early 2020, and will continue to do so as Tenet looks for a permanent replacement.
The surgeon turned administrator hit the ground running at the Turlock hospital by implementing a new team-based approach to Emergency Room care the week before Thanksgiving.
The Journal talked with Naidu about the challenges Emanuel is facing and what he sees happening in the future.
Q. You are stepping into Emanuel’s CEO position right in the middle of a pandemic, with health orders changing sometimes on a daily basis and on top of a nursing shortage that started before the pandemic. How are you addressing these challenges?
A. I’m really more than anything, just appreciative of the great team here. And, also from my standpoint, having a clinical background being in a fairly unique position as a physician CEO, or generally as a clinician CEO, is so important during this time. You’re right, in healthcare we’re facing so many challenges and the pandemic, as it continues to evolve.
Literally, it is something that requires staying on top of and being able to keep up with that science is something that I’ve leaned on heavily as you can imagine in the past couple of years. And then I would also add that I really feel a great deal of empathy for the team, having practiced clinically, I understand how it’s tiring and I understand the challenges that it takes to be able to come back when you’re exhausted and you’re emotionally worn out and do the job. And what I really want is for people to first and foremost, take care of themselves. So bringing all of that to the role is is just, I think, very helpful in in allowing us to be a successful team here at Emanuel.
Q. Emanuel started out as this very small town hospital, and then grew as Turlock has grown. But now we’re in between a small town and a city. How do you see Emanuel serving the community in this in-between phase?
A. The key is that the hospital has, and will continue to grow, to serve the needs of the community as it evolves and as healthcare changes. If you look at what hospitals are being asked to do today, whether it’s in a big city or in a smaller town/rural community, the the expectations have gone up dramatically. And that’s been, by the way, dramatically sped up by the pandemic. So, I actually am very pleased with the services that we have here in that they really do focus on and address what needs Turlock has…and also have the relationships to send people to a higher level of care quickly and easily. Whether that’s to one of the larger hospitals north or south of us, or all the way to an academic medical center, like UCSF. That’s really what I believe is the role of Emanuel and any hospital in a setting like ours. And that’s what we’ll continue to deliver.
Q. The Central Valley as a whole, and California, has a shortage of all health care workers but especially nurses. Has Emanuel been impacted by the shortage of nurses?
A. We have and you’re right, it’s really every hospital.
It’s a real challenge. Like I was saying earlier, there’s just been so much asked for these people every day for the past two years on top of the hard work that they were already doing, and we’ve gotten that piece of it, then we’ve got the shifts in the U.S. workforce that we’re also all reading about that are impacting this…I think it’s really an opportunity for us as a healthcare system to step back and say, ‘gosh, how do we make sure that we are focused on these people that give so much in the right ways and the ways that they want so that we can continue to attract talented people into healthcare?’
As part of that, I believe we have a real wonderful opportunity because the point you made earlier about well, now we’ve grown into this town, and it’s not actually a small town anymore, and people who are here have told me, in the few weeks that I have been here, how great Turlock is and how much they love to be here…So how do we support the people who live here and want to stay here who want to come and work on our team? That’s the other area of big focus, whether it’s partnerships with the nursing schools or other specialties, whatever it is, that’s something that I really want to make sure we address because we certainly want to be the place that people who want to live in Turlock and work in health care come to.
Q. Knowing that the pandemic makes it difficult for strategic planning, what do you see happening with Emanuel in the near future?
A. I actually think it’s a fair question because the reality is that the pandemic is not going to be over in the next month or two. And so whatever the plans are, they have to incorporate that. And my approach is quite simply, I really want Emanuel to return to its roots of being the place where this community wants to go to get its care because we deliver high quality, excellent care to every patient every time. And for me, that’s what it’s about. It’s about both that high bar for the service we provide and making sure that it’s consistent.
Because whether it’s pandemic related or it’s because somebody, heaven forbid, had a stroke or a heart attack, or whatever it is, we will deliver the care that they need.