South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 6, 2020
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October 2004 - Volume 1 - Issue 3
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Lessons From Long Ago Help Arocho

You don’t have to ride a skateboard or be great at video games to impress a teenager. Sometimes all you have to do is work hard and be compassionate. Jacqueline (Jackie) Arocho, CEO of Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami, can testify to that.

"My first boss was and still is my greatest role model," says Arocho, who was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. "I went to work for him when I was 17 years old, as a cashier in his small "mom and pop" supermarket. He showed me that you can be in the business world and still have a tremendous heart. He was an exceptional boss! He was not afraid to work hard, along with his employees. He was not afraid of taking risks to move his business and our community forward. He was very sociable with customers and employees alike. He developed a loyal base of customers through his philanthropic contributions to the local community in the form of: providing credit – without interest – to families experiencing hardship, employing many people from the local neighborhood who needed jobs; and saving many kids from becoming delinquents by having them load and unload groceries. Today, this gentleman has established several businesses on that same block where his small "mom and pop" store started. He started a restaurant, a Laundromat and owns several brownstone buildings on the block. He has shown me what it means to have vision and get others to help you achieve your goals."

Having vision and achieving goals has carried Arocho a long way from her teenage years. In fact, to graduate college she went about as far from Jersey City – geographically speaking – as she could.

"I went to California for a summer visit and decided to stay. So I enrolled in San Diego State to complete my degree," she said. "I started out as a biology major and was thinking of going into medicine, but then I took a course in psychology and in sociology and fell in love with the social sciences. I immediately switched my major to psychology and decided I wanted to help the sick, but from an emotional supportive standpoint."

She returned to Jersey City eager to apply what she had learned to help people.

"After I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology, I decided I wanted to work with HIV/AIDS patients. HIV was on the rise in women and many of these women were giving birth to children with HIV. I was offered a position at the Jersey City Family Health Center in New Jersey as an HIV/AIDS counselor. This was the start of my career in healthcare and I gave it my all," she recalls. "I loved working with my patients and found that even in their darkest and most helpless moments, if I showed them I cared through my support, it would make all the difference in the world to them and gave them strength to face the disease process. I cared for the patients so much that I, along with other co-workers who were very dedicated, wrote a grant and was awarded $3.0 million by the government for this program."

After two years in that program, she was ready for her next goal and enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis for her Master’s in Social Work.

"I think people underestimate the power behind the ‘social worker,’" she says. "You have to learn to listen, focus and be receptive to others point of view. You have to help other’s see their own potential towards achieving their own goals. You have to be ethical and unbiased in your treatment of people. You have to understand conflict – resolution and confront misconceptions. You have to be a good communicator, besides being a good listener. Aren’t these all the qualities that a leader should possess?"

After earning her MSW, she found south Florida beckoning.

"It (coming to Florida) was an opportunity for me to obtain a position within a healthcare market that faced many challenges and I am always up for a challenge," she said. She began by working in a 45-bed acute rehabilitation unit and outpatient center, and her hard work soon paid off as she moved up to director of business development, where she was responsible for aspects of admissions, marketing and case management operations. After that, she was promoted to area manager for business development for Florida and regional manager for Florida and Puerto Rico. In April 2003, she was appointed to her present position as CEO of Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami, a licensed 60-bed community based, comprehensive medical rehabilitation facility. Anyone who knows Arocho, knows she has a vision for where she wants to lead her facility.

"What every successful hospital should do is to expand the continuum of care through development of new programs and services that meets the needs of the community," she said. "My vision for my hospital is to provide each patient with a continuum of care that meets their specific need and allows them an opportunity to receive the optimal outcome they deserve, whether it be through direct provision or partnership with fellow healthcare providers within the community."

She is just as clear when it comes to stating her thoughts on leadership.

"A leader must have vision and be able to communicate that vision effectively to others so that they will be motivated to assist in helping you to achieve it," she said. "A leader is a true mentor that moves others along the path of success in order to create their own success. A leader must be understanding and willing to listen to other’s point of view; but must also be firm and decisive. For me, leadership means looking at the big picture."

While some of her ideas about what makes a good leader were shaped when she was a teenager, she has definitely incorporated everything she has learned along the way. Rehabilitation hospitals face numerous challenges, and Arocho is not only aware of these challenges but – no surprise – she has ideas of how to meet them.

"In 1970, the HCFA 10 was established to designate 10 rehab diagnoses that would qualify a facility as an inpatient rehabilitation hospital," she explained. "In 1984, the HCFA 10 was incorporated into a 75% rule which proposed that 75% of your patient population must fall within the 10 rehab diagnostic categories in order to qualify your site under Medicare as an inpatient rehab hospital and receive reimbursement as such. In September of 2003, CMS proposed to restructure one of the HCFA 10 rehab diagnosis called ‘poly arthritis.’ This category will impact the rehab business significantly since patients who fall under single hip or knee-joint replacement due to an osteoarthritis condition will no longer fall under the HCFA guidelines for the 75% compliance. For many rehab hospitals across the nation, this will lead to a tremendous decrease in volume since these cases makeup a large percentage of their total HCFA volume. Although the full effect of this may not be seen for 3-4 years, the rehab industry will need to strategically plan to make up this loss of business either by obtaining market share that falls into the other HCFA rehab diagnostic categories or look to other lines of business in the healthcare continuum for post-acute services. In the meantime, we will keep lobbying for a change to this rule."

Jackie Arocho, CEO of Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami, can be reached by calling (305) 259-6390.
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