John DiAngelo: Building Inspira's health network in S. Jersey one ribbon-cutting at a time

AGENDA24
John DiAngelo, chief executive of Inspira Health Network.

As the chief executive of an ever-expanding health network, John DiAngelo, 65, cuts a lot of ribbons — so many, it’s a wonder he doesn’t have repetitive stress syndrome.

Lately, it was Inspira Health Network’s new urgent-care center in Laurel Springs. In July, Inspira acquired the Millville Rescue Squad, which increased Inspira’s fleet from two vehicles to 70 or so. And, sure enough, in September, there was DiAngelo, holding the ribbon at Inspira’s emergency room designed specifically for senior citizens at the network’s Vineland hospital.

“It’s funny, because I was telling my board members that I hadn’t cut a ribbon in a while. I was getting fidgety,” DiAngelo said, laughing. “We’ll probably open another urgent-care center at the beginning of the year and, by the end of the first quarter we’ll open another. We’re trying to open three a year, that’s our game plan.”

It’s good that DiAngelo is getting a lot of practice, because in 2019 he’ll need it at the ribbon-cutting for the network’s new, $350 million hospital in Mullica Hill, a 204-bed, 467,000-square-foot facility that will employ 1,400 people and largely replace Inspira’s hospital in Woodbury.

What’s going to happen to the Woodbury hospital? I bet the folks in that town weren’t so pleased with your announcement.

It’s always a concern when your hospital is leaving town. One thing we promised the town from the beginning was that we’re not going to close that facility. Actually, we’re funding a redevelopment plan right now that we’re doing with the county and the town for the best use of the area. It’s costing me about $100,000, but I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

What about the building?

It’ll be turned into an outpatient facility. It’ll have an emergency room. It will house our mental-health capacity. It will have a number of back-office functions. We’re always looking for space for our people. The church across the street in [Mullica Hill], that’s all our people and we lease that space. We’re bursting at the seams, so this will give us some flexibility.

It seems to me you could lease a lot of space in churches for $350 million. Why not just add on to the existing Woodbury building?

Actually, it would have cost us about $20 million more than what we’re spending on the new hospital to put a tower on that building. It was landlocked. There was nowhere to go.

What’s your patient base like here? You are in spitting distance from Philadelphia, but your coverage area is very rural.

If you look at Cumberland County, and if you look at Salem County, and go through all the health indicators, these two counties are among the worst — obesity, childhood obesity, cancer because of smoking. We had one of our oncologists join us from Fox Chase Cancer Center. He told me he was concerned he wouldn’t see the variety of disease he saw at Fox Chase, but he said, `I was mistaken. I’m seeing all kinds of stuff.’  I said, `That’s good for you, but not good for our community.’ We actually have programs now where we deal with the curriculum to try to get to the kids when they are young to work through things like childhood obesity and teen pregnancy.

So tell me about your “high reliability” initiative.

Every morning at each hospital, we have a half-hour meeting. Everybody goes around and says what problems they have that need to be fixed right now to help the patient. By the time you leave the room, you’ve got plans in place to fix whatever needs to be fixed that day. It’s not just the clinical people; it’s the maintenance people, housekeeping, dietary. We want to exceed the expectations of the patients. I tell employees: Your goal is to do that using all of Inspira’s resources, not just your silo. I want you to think of what’s best for the patient, whether it’s calling the finance person. I give everybody my phone number.

What’s it like being a finance guy leading a group of doctors?

Everybody has their strengths when they come to this job. You really need to be able to listen. I always joke that when I got the job, I thought I got to run the place. What I realized very quickly is that I don’t run anything. I help everybody. To the extent you can do that, and keep everybody thinking they have an ear and that you are listening to them, it empowers people.

JOHN A. DiANGELO

Home: Mullica Hill

Family: Wife, June; children, Justin, 37; Janine, 36; Jena Wisely, 34.

What's for dinner: Homemade perciatelli (pasta).

Diplomas: St. Thomas More High School, St. Joseph's University, accounting; Widener, master of business administration.

INSPIRA HEALTH NETWORK

Headquarters: Mullica Hill

Hospitals:  Inspira Medical Centers in Elmer, Vineland, and Woodbury, 736 beds. Part of  125 service locations, including nine urgent-care centers, 12 imaging centers, seven rehabilitation centers, and many physicians' offices.

What's new: The region's first senior emergency department, housed at Inspira Vineland.

Dollars: $743.8 million in revenues, half from Medicare, Medicaid.

Employees: 5,625, plus 1,183 affiliated physicians and advanced practice nurses.