Facility expansion, Baldrige Award among his accomplishments
By Joe Southern
Greg Haralson will be the first to deflect credit to those around him, but there is no denying the accomplishments Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital has had in the five years under his leadership as the chief executive officer.
Everything from a massive expansion of the facility and upgrading processes to improved community relations and bringing home a coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award has led to his recent promotion as senior vice president and CEO of both Memorial Hermann’s Sugar Land and Southwest hospitals.
“Greg has done a fantastic job spearheading the growth at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, and we’re excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital under his leadership. Our Sugar Land campus has greatly enhanced its service lines and positioned itself to be the hospital of choice for high quality, patient-centered care in Fort Bend County,” said Erin Asprec, Senior Vice President and Regional President-South Region for Memorial Hermann. “By having Greg take on the role of CEO at Memorial Hermann Southwest as well, we anticipate continued collaboration between the two campuses as they work together to meet and exceed the healthcare needs of the southwest Houston community.”
Haralson said the wheels on those major accomplishments were already in motion when he was hired in 2012.
“The chance to come in in July of 2012 and really take over what was a very well run hospital on the cusp of just burgeoning growth within the community … the groundwork that had been laid before I got there was significant, and so it was not broken, but it was an opportunity for us to maximize on some of the acquisitions and investments that Memorial Hermann had made in the market,” he said.
Just before his arrival from Medical City Healthcare in Dallas, Memorial Hermann had acquired Richmond Bone and Joint Clinic and the Southwest Medical Clinic with locations in Wharton, Needville, Rosenberg, Bay City and El Campo. Richmond Bone and Joint was later transitioned to UTHealth.
“And with that, it was in large part my responsibility to get those acquisitions moving forward and make sure that we were productive and that our physicians needs were being met and they understood our strategies as Memorial Hermann and, really, link people together for the betterment of our community,” Haralson said.
By this point the Sugar Land hospital was already a year into its six-year application process for the Baldrige Award and was dealing with a space crunch.
“First steps, we had to get a little bit bigger,” he said. “We were starting to run into capacity challenges at the hospital very quickly after I arrived. We needed an expansion project and getting that done and getting all the work done you have to do to get that approval from the board” took time and effort.
It took 18 months to design and 18 months to build.
“When you look at that, the bigger part of the first five years are really around doing the right thing for the campus, making sure we have the right footprint in place to grow into,” he said, adding that the expansion was designed with future expansion in mind.
The 155,000 square-foot, six-story patient tower is the centerpiece of a $93 million expansion project on campus that included the 100,000 square-foot Medical Plaza 2. That building is now home to the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute in Sugar Land. The hospital has also undergone renovation to 30,000 square-feet of space in the existing west tower.
In the Medical Plaza 2, “the vision of that was to always have IRONMAN on the first floor and bring our sports medicine institute fully into the Sugar Land area,” he said. “That is also the co-location of our UT orthopedic surgeons there on the second floor, so it’s nice synergy there. We’ve got our sports medicine family practice doctor there on the first floor next to IRONMAN as well, so most all of our sports medicine components – physical therapy, athletic training, performance enhancement training, all of that – is right there now on site. It’s truly state-of-the-art.”
In addition to improving facilities, the hospital improved many services under Haralson’s leadership.
“So we were working on what we call our advance public floor center, bringing in more women’s services, more surgical services, growing our obstetrics program, delivering more babies, bringing the cardiac program up,” he said.” We had the cath lab when I arrived but we didn’t have the opportunity to take care of patients, and intervening on patients, who were having heart attacks. … We can do that now, whereas when I arrived we weren’t able to do that and we were having to send patients out for that intervention.”
“It was very important to me to get that process, that procedure and that staff and that meant more cardiologists and that meant physician recruitment, staff recruitment, it was complete program development related to that,” he said. “Pediatrics is important to us as well. We’ve worked very hard on our pediatric emergency room to get it to 24/7 coverage with physicians in there. The pediatricians, the pediatric emergency medicine doctors 24/7 in our ER and now growing that into an in-patient unit that’s just opened this month (May).”
All of that became part of the process the hospital used to win one of the nation’s most prestigious awards.
“And then we’ve got … the Baldrige journey, which had kicked off a year before I arrived. We were working on our process improvement methodology throughout those first few years. We were utilizing Baldrige to do that. So a lot of our strategic planning, a lot of the ways we were trying to lead the organization were through our customer service focus, was all based on the questions that we were challenging ourselves with in the Baldrige criteria,” he said.
“That has now manifested itself in us being a recipient, which is an amazing accomplishment for all of our team and we’re thrilled about that,” Haralson said. “But what it really did, it helped us pull our team together, it helped us accelerate our strategies, execute our initiatives and it moved us faster along our continuum because we were on that journey. It was bigger than just helping us win recipient status of that award, it was very, very fundamental in how we execute and it’s now even more so.
“It’s not a Greg Haralson award, it’s very much that entire organization of Sugar Land pulling together and doing something remarkable as a team. No one wins a Baldrige Award by themselves. It’s absolutely the entire team. It’s a team sport. It’s the team element in all of it that makes it go. Everybody’s assigned a task and everybody’s a champion for a particular initiative. That’s why it’s so important when we were up in Baltimore (at the awards ceremony) to make sure that the team was up there with us and being recognized,” he said.
The 43-year-old Amarillo native earned his master’s degree in healthcare administration from Trinity University, which is where he met his wife, who earned the same degree. He was then hired by HCA in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“Twelve years with HCA is where I cut my teeth in operations. I really learned how to run a hospital from all the different aspects of day-to-day operations that come with being a COO and managing the complexities of a variety of different types of locations,” he said. “My Las Colinas opportunity prepared me well for the Sugar Land opportunity I got as a CEO and my Fort Worth experience and my Medical City experience together in Dallas combined to prepare me well for this job here at Southwest. So had I not had some of the complexities at Fort Worth and Dallas. I probably would not get a shot at having what I do now.”
What he does now is manage two hospitals for Memorial Hermann.
“Because of those types of high-end services – transplants, CV surgery, neuro and vascular, those really higher-end tertiary services that were offered and learning how to manage those service lines – without that I wouldn’t have a chance to be here today,” he said.
He and his wife and their two children live in Sugar Land, where he keeps busy in his spare time attending his children’s activities and staying active in the community. He recently joined the board of directors for the Sugar Land Skeeters Foundation. On those rare moments he is not involved in work or family, he likes to be outdoors fishing or bird hunting.
Looking ahead, Haralson isn’t ready to rest on his laurels. He is currently spearheading the effort to get Southwest Hospital designated as a Level II trauma center – the second-highest rating a hospital can receive.
“The next five years could be as exciting as the last five,” he said. “I mean that’s just my outlook on it. When I look at Sugar Land, I see the continued growth of that community. I do think we’re looking at more floors, a larger facility, and the opportunity … to bring more services. The compliment between those services and what we do here are going to be important. I think that’s what makes this role really special at this point is to be able to do complimentary things along the corridor, what we call the (Highway) 59 corridor.”
He said he is enjoying his work and feels he is where he needs to be.
“The time with Memorial Hermann has been an incredible experience and it’s such a great group of people to work with. Very supportive leadership and incredibly dedicated staff, physicians, executive leaders, all down the road all the way through the continuum, it’s just been an amazing time,” he said.