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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 26 - July 2, 2002


St. Luke CEO has head for business, an ear for staff

Jensen hired as new chief executive officer

Express Staff Writer

As duty nurses at St. Lukeís Wood River Medical Center were making pre-dawn rounds while patients slept, one of them encountered Bruce Jensen, who extended his hand and introduced himself in his signature gentle voice, chatted briefly, then moved on.

Director of Medical Imaging, Dr. Tom Broderick, left, shows off a test shoulder detail to new hospital CEO Bruce Jensen, as MRI technician Phil OíDriscoll displays the images on the screen. Express photo by Willy Cook

Others at St. Lukeís tell of the same type of encounters with Jensen, 46, who was officially named this week as the new chief executive officer of the hospital.

With a firm handshake, an easy smile and an interest in absorbing what staffers say, Jensenís style could be described as affable management-by-walking-around.

But this isnít unexpected or unusual for Jensen. When he first came to the hospital in February as interim administrator, succeeding Jon Moses, his reputation as a popular CEO at Holy Rosary Medical Center in Ontario, Ore., preceded him through the hospital industry grapevine.

"They were heartbroken he might leave," one St. Lukeís staffer remembers hearing about Jensen, a Pocatello native with 18 years in hospital administration.

Chosen permanently over more than 70 other candidates for the St. Lukeís post, Jensen has set about to introduce himself to every person on the 250-member staff, get acquainted with the community, evaluate the hospitalís progress and chart directions for the future of a significant valley employer and economic force. His wife, Sonya, and four children, ages 14 to 22, will join him soon.

Jensen presides over a modern 32-bed facility that cost $32 million, some $18 million of which was donated by Wood River Valley residents. St. Lukeís opened for business 19 months ago.

Heís no ivory tower administrator, by any means. He began his career in hospital housekeeping, and therefore has a bottom-to-top personal insight into how an efficient hospital operates. His credentials are solid: a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University, a Master of Arts from Washington University School of Medicine.

As he settles into the job, Jensen sees expansion already under way: a new suite costing more than $400,000 will house a new $1.6 million MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) system, whose first patient will be next Monday.

Also under construction adjoining the hospital is the new multi-story physicians office building, with offices for 12 doctors. The proximity of the offices to the hospital, Jensen says, will be a plus for the physiciansí patients as well as for the hospital.

By late July, the St. Lukeís hospital system, based in Boise, will also be served by Air St. Lukeís, a new helicopter service that can evacuate patients requiring special emergency attention to Boise. The service will compete with the LifeFlight air evac operated by Boise-based St. Alphonsus Regional medical Center.

With a medical staff of 35 physicians, and that many more with privileges to use facilities, St. Lukeís Wood River Medical Center is evolving into a diversified health care facility.

St. Lukeís primary care services include surgery, mammography, medical imaging, a mother/baby birthing center, emergency services, orthopedics, urology, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, and dermatology.

One service that seems to be part of a growing health care field, treating sleep disorders, has found its way into the St. Lukeís menu of specialties.

Jensen plans to add ophthalmic services soon.

Jensen is developing a set of goals aimed at providing good primary care, as well as more specialties. But, with an eye to the costs of running a modern hospital, Jensen says St. Lukeís will only add what is needed and can be supported by patient volume.

He wants to make certain that St. Lukeís has topnotch emergency response services. And heíll be working with local physicians to make them more aware of the hospitalís services for their patients, some of whom might now be using hospitals in other cities. Jensen says the hospital occupancy rate is about 42 percent.

The future of health care, Jensen believes, is in more outpatient services. Right now, Jensen says, 60 percent of the hospitalís revenues are for outpatient services; 70 percent of all surgeries are outpatient.

On his agenda is a survey in the Wood River Valley to learn more about the health care needs and preferences of residents.

One of the first things Jensen learned about the Wood River Valley was the astonishing generosity of donors who more than matched St. Lukeís capital investment in the hospital, and continue their philanthropy for the hospitalís needs through the large St. Lukeís Foundation.

That support has been thrown behind him in the early days of his work.

"Bruce is astute in assessing the business challenges faced by small rural hospitals," said Preston Strazza, chairman of the hospitalís community board, "(and) possesses the ability to make hard decisions while promoting the atmosphere of consensus building and team player."

Perhaps a final tribute to Jensen from a St. Lukeís medical staffer, who asked not to be identified: she said Jensen is a regular runner to stay fit, and therefore has a personal understanding of the importance of good health, not merely a businessmanís eye for a hospital.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.