South Florida Hospital News
Saturday October 31, 2020
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January 2016 - Volume 12 - Issue 7
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Memorial Healthcare System CEO to Retire in February

After spending 41 years at Memorial Healthcare System, including the last 28 years as its president and CEO, Frank V. Sacco will be saying goodbye at the end of February. Over the past summer, Sacco, 68, decided it was the right time to head into retirement, primarily for three reasons. Financially, Memorial is extremely solvent and AA-rated. Strategically, the system is well-positioned as an organization. Finally, Sacco leaves with an incredibly strong management team at the helm. In fact, he says any of them could lead this system.

“If I didn’t have a strong team that has worked together and is very cohesive, I wouldn’t leave,” he says. “I think that this team can continue the legacy of this organization and the culture of Memorial. So as I looked at everything, I asked myself what else is there to accomplish? Do I want to hang on and stay around because I can or is it time to turn it over to someone else that has more energy, more patience and more tolerance than I have. I felt there was no better time to retire - go out when you are on top.”
 
If someone would describe Sacco’s leadership ability it would be one word - focused. Many leaders have a vision but what distinguishes great leaders from good ones is knowing how to stay focused and execute that vision—something Sacco successfully did over nearly three decades.
 
“We have been able to execute our vision and in a very collaborative fashion,” he says. “I like to know everyone’s opinion but I will make the decision at the end. And from my days in the military I remember saying lead, follow or get out of the way. To be a great leader, you have to lead.”
 
One of Sacco’s visions during his tenure was leading the expansion of the hospital system from a single hospital to a network of six in South Broward County. Today, Memorial is the nation’s third-largest public healthcare system. When asked to discuss the growth and expansion of Memorial over the years, Sacco says that many in the organization and community were open to the expansion.
 
“First, we needed a western presence in the suburban corridor which is why we added Memorial Hospital West and many were very supportive of that,” he says. “It was important to us and the overall organization for our long-term viability and to maintain less dependence on taxes.”
 
As Memorial began to look over the market place, Sacco says they became more strategic.
 
“We picked up Pembroke in between the two hospitals and then added Hollywood Medical Center farther south,” he says. “During that time, we also started building Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at Memorial. While some of our moves were opportunistic, most were designed to be strategic.”
 
While growing the system was important, Sacco says that his proudest accomplishment - and probably the most critical—was developing a culture of respect, putting the patient first, and focusing on safety, quality and service.
 
“Everything we do, putting the patient first, having our employees have the ability to speak up and stop the line, so to speak, if they see the patient is not being treated properly or needs something and is not getting it, or being discharged prematurely, any of that - the culture of putting the patient first that’s our most critical accomplishment.
 
“The second most critical accomplishment was having our employees buy into that and advancing that culture,” says Sacco. “The expansion of our facilities and building the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital were all strategic moves. But the cultural achievements we made and the advances we made in developing the culture and putting the patient and family at the center of everything we do is probably the most important achievement.”
 
Not only does Sacco leave the system in good hands with the current leadership team, but he leaves it with a great relationship with the community as well. After becoming the first health system in the state to take over the delivery of primary care from Broward County in 1992, Sacco says they went into the communities to assist patients with their quality of life, not just quality of health. This commitment to community-based healthcare is integral to Memorial's mission, vision and history and is the driving force behind every Memorial experience.
 
Memorial assesses community health needs in three areas of action: prenatal, primary and child development care for lower-income, high-risk families; health promotion and disease prevention; and community living needs, including support for the chronically ill, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. During Sacco’s tenure, Memorial created many programs and partnered with South Florida community organizations to address all three areas of need.
 
“Our relationship with the community really has improved over the years,” he says. “There’s not a health system in South Florida that has a better relationship to their community than Memorial. That relationship and those feelings run deep on both sides. No other system in this state has a deep seed with their community as we have.”
 
As Sacco prepares to head into retirement, he knows that healthcare in general is going through some challenging times. But it’s nothing new, he stresses.
 
“There are many challenges but there were also many challenges in the early 80s, late 80s, the 90s, and the early 2000s,” he says. “There will be a lot of challenges. Healthcare is going into a period of revolution, not an evolution. It will take someone with more energy, patience and tolerance as well as someone with a great vision and ability to communicate to navigate the tumultuous waters.”

For more information on Memorial Healthcare System, visit www.mhs.net.

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