WATSONVILLE—Watsonville Community Hospital has a new chief executive officer.
Steven Salyer, who has 14 years of leadership experience in hospitals throughout the U.S., started the position on July 6. The hospital announced the move on July 14.
Salyer previously served as chief operating officer at UP Health System in Marquette, Mich., a 222-bed specialty care and Level-2 trauma hospital. There, he oversaw all operations, including its cancer center, cardiology service line, employed physician clinics, surgery center and imaging centers.
Before that, he served as CEO of Sebastian River Medical Center in Sebastian, Fla., and as COO of Indian River Medical Center in Vero Beach, Fla.
In 2010, Salyer led a joint venture acquisition of Starke Regional Medical Center in Starke, Fla., in conjunction with Shands University of Florida.
Salyer has also served as CEO of Starke Regional Medical Center, and as COO of Harton Regional Medical Center in Tullahoma, Tenn.
Salyer was a captain in the United States Marine Corps for five years, both in peacetime and in combat support operations in Iraq.
Salyer in a press release said his focus will be on “ensuring the operational success of the hospital as one of the leading providers of healthcare in the area.”
“To achieve this goal, I am committed to building a strong partnership with the Watsonville Community Hospital medical staff and employees and working closely with them to enhance clinical quality, patient safety, and overall customer satisfaction,” he said.
Salyer is originally from California—he served in the U.S. Marine Corps there—and says that coming to Watsonville is “like a homecoming.”
“Watsonville is such a wonderful community,” he said. “There is just something about this community. It is so welcoming. The people are phenomenal, and I love the diversity.”
He praised his staff of nurses, doctors and employees.
“…just the teamwork they have taking care of patients, and how committed they all are,” he said. “People don’t realize what a good group they are.
“What they need is leadership,” he continued. “They need someone who is tied to them, helping them out on a daily basis, coordinating with the community, with the providers, building networks to get to the point where it thrives.”
Looking to the future, Salyer says that the hospital has plans to launch a new cardiac catheterization laboratory, begin interventional radiology and increase its cancer care. In addition, WCH has a new bariatric surgeon, he says.
The hospital is also looking to partner with other providers to offer more complex services such as liver transplants.
“We’re going to find out all the needs of those patients we support and we’re going to be able to meet those needs locally,” he said.
Salyer takes the helm at the hospital in the wake of a turbulent shift in management that started in June 2019 when Los Angeles-based Halsen Healthcare purchased it from Quorum Health Corporation.
That sale was put on hold briefly the following July when Watsonville Community Health Trust announced its intention to buy the hospital instead. Those plans fell through, however, when the Health Trust failed to secure funding. Halsen completed the purchase in October 2019.
After the sale was finalized, Halsen sold the building and property to Alabama-based Medical Properties Trust (MPT), and then leased it from them in a so-called sale/leaseback.
In January of this year, the hospital’s board of directors announced that Halsen had been ousted from its leadership role after the company was unable to meet “financial obligations to various stakeholders.”
MPT now owns the property, and contracts with Los Angeles-based Prospect Medical Holdings to oversee operations.
Salyer says that the hospital is in much better financial shape than it was under its previous management and that talks are underway “on the board level” to plan the future of the hospital’s leadership. He declined to elaborate.
While Prospect is overseeing the hospital, Salyer says he has the primary management role, and is employed by WCH. That’s important for the community to understand, he said.
“I’m not from out of town,” he said. “I’m here local now. I grabbed a U-Haul with my wife, my two rescue cats and my dog and we drove 2,200 miles over the Rockies to get here, and I’m here permanently.”
Salyer has a bachelor’s from East Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in business administration from New York Institute of Technology. He also holds certificates in Lean/Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints and executive leadership, as well as Marine Corps officer leadership training.