Seton Medical Center Harker Heights CEO Matt Maxfield is helping build a new hospital from the ground up in the community he calls home. The Temple native spent the last 25 years working in hospitals across Texas, but he returned home in 2012 to lead the new Seton facility. Maxfield talked to the Herald about the challenges of managing a new hospital.
How did you get into the health care industry?
I was introduced to the health care field by my mother, who was an assistant dean of nursing at (the) University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. I grew up in Temple. I had a lot of friends and family in the medical field. It made me think, “You know, I really enjoy business, but health care would really be something of interest.” Actually, when I was in high school, I went and interviewed the administrator of Scott & White Hospital. I asked him what it was like to be a hospital administrator, and if I wanted to do that, how would I go about doing that in school? So he gave me a book with some ideas. Pretty well by the time I was a junior in college, I knew this is what I wanted to do.
How did it feel to come home and help build a new hospital in the community you grew up in?
Obviously, having the opportunity to come back not only to Central Texas, but to come home, was really an opportunity that my family and I really feel blessed about. It is a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a hospital from the ground up. We were the first hospital to be built in this county for 34 years. So it doesn’t happen very often. Not too many executives get that opportunity in their career. But to be able to come home and do that, is really even more satisfying. It is very gratifying to help build something that will be in this community for many years to come.
Were there any surprising challenges during Seton Harker Heights’ first year of operation?
I’d say that the biggest surprise that we had was the ER volume from day 1. It was unexpected that we saw so many patients on our first day. We planned for volumes on the admission side, patient beds and surgery side. We couldn’t have known that the emergency room would surpass our expectations. Within the first hour of operation (on June 18), we had four ambulances in the bays and people walking in every hour. We saw 75 patients day one, when we projected 40-50 patients. We’ve had to move quickly in terms of hiring more staff to come in and really solidify not just the ancillary and nursing staff, but also the physician staff. We actually had a plan in place for the first 30 days of operation. We started off with one staffing plan, but we had a back-up plan. And we literally called in that back-up plan on day two.
How much growth do you expect over the next five to 10 years?
Our business strategic planning that we do, we do annually. We’re not trying to forecast out five years. There are just too many unknowns. Certainly, we’ve forecasted and budgeted for what next year looks like. We expect to double our admissions this year. We expect nearly to double our surgery cases over the next year. We think from the emergency room size, we expect it to increase. We don’t expect it to double. I think we’re kind of there, where it’s just going to be more contained growth, if you will.
Is there any medical technology or innovations you are particularly excited about?
Robotic surgery is one of them. As (Metroplex CEO Carlyle Walton) mentioned to you when you interviewed him, neither one of our hospitals have robotic surgery today. As we are recruiting, many of the surgeons today are being trained on robotic surgery. So when they come out of medical school, they are certainly expecting that, especially for urology and a lot of the gynecological procedures that are being done. The training done in a lot of residencies is done using robotics. When they come out of medical school, they expect that. If they don’t have that, well, they go somewhere else. So we are exploring that as well. It’s a very expensive endeavor.