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Seven Rivers hospital expands its reach // CUSTOMERS FIRST

When addressing west Citrus business leaders at a luncheon last week, Michael L. Collins asked a favor of the audience: Please call if you or someone you know receives bad service at Seven Rivers Community Hospital.

Collins, the chief executive officer at Seven Rivers, knows a dissatisfied patient won't come back. What's worse, the unhappy person probably will tell friends about the bad experience.

The Crystal River Rotary Club members seemed impressed. Customer satisfaction is paramount in business, and Collins _ unlike some in his field _ knows that health care these days is a business.

"Our success and viability are directly tied to the local community," he said afterward. "We cannot rely on people in some corporate office. Our success is still dependent upon our effort and local input."

That is the approach Collins brought when he left snowy Indiana in February to take the helm at Seven Rivers. So far, the man and the hospital appear to be a perfect fit.

A reserved, well-spoken man, Collins moved to Crystal River with more than 20 years' experience in hospital administration. He is accustomed to small-town, Midwest living but is intrigued by semirural Citrus County and its growing population.

Collins said he believes in listening to patients and the community and then solving the problems they identify. He relies heavily upon the hospital's governing board and medical staff for suggestions.

He is not a control freak or the overbearing boss who pops up unexpectedly at 1 a.m. trying to catch the night-shift janitors loafing; that would be intimidating, he says. Collins wants to be supportive.

He is more likely to lead a staff pep talk, reminding workers that patient satisfaction must be their guiding rule.

"Our success and our future are in their hands," he says of Seven Rivers employees. "Our No. 1 priority is to provide patient service in a way that our patients will want to come back. If they don't, that will have a severe effect on all of us."

About 85 percent of all problems in an organization are related to systems, he said, not the people operating them.

Collins said he entered hospital administration because, as a sociology major at Western Kentucky University, he wanted to become involved in a business that was not dog-eat-dog.

"That was long ago," he acknowledges, and health care has changed quite a bit.

Sill, Collins is optimistic that the ever-changing health care system can continue to serve patients well. That goes for the small-town doctor to the large, corporate-owned hospitals such as Seven Rivers.

"Because we are owned by a large company doesn't mean the decisions are being made off-site," he said.

When asked what makes Seven Rivers unique in his experience, Collins noted that staff members here have lived and trained all over the eastern United States. Same goes for the patients.

In Kentucky and Indiana, he said, the hospital staffs and patients were much more local.

That reflection of the Citrus area is one Collins likes _ personally and professionally.

"This area has lots of growth potential," he said. "In this type of business, that's a positive."


OCCUPATION: Chief Executive Officer, Seven Rivers Community Hospital.

EXPERIENCE: 1985-1996: CEO of Culver Union Hospital, Crawfordsvile, Ind. 1983-1985: vice president of Aliant Health System in Louisville, Ky. 1976-1983: CEO of Taylor County Hospital, Campbellsville, Ky. 1974-1976: Assistant executive director, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughter, Norfolk, Va.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Western Kentucky University, 1970. Masters in Health Administration, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1972.

QUOTE: "Our No. 1 priority is to provide patient service in a way that our patients will want to come back. If they don't, that will have a severe effect on all of us.'"