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Sharon Hospital will now share its president with Putnam

SHARON — At a time when anxiety about health care is at an unusually high level among Tri-state region residents, the Nuvance Health medical system has announced that it will now split Sharon Hospital President Mark Hirko’s time between two facilities.

Nuvance announced on Friday, July 31, that Dr. Hirko will also be president of Putnam Hospital in Carmel, N.Y. He replaces Peter Kelly, who has been president of Putnam since 2016; Kelly will now be president of Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 

Kelly replaces Joseph J. Mullany in that role. Nuvance did not indicate where Mullany is going or why he is leaving. 

Hirko was reassuring in an interview on Friday morning. He noted that in the recent months, because of the COVID-19 quarantine, a majority of meetings at the hospital are already being held online, via Zoom.  

“Even when I’m on vacation, I’m meeting with the staff everyday on Zoom,” he said.

He also is able to rely on Sharon Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Christina McCulloch, who is in charge of many of the hospital’s day to day operations.  McCulloch has been at the hospital through the tenures of three different presidents at this point, Hirko said. 

“She keeps the lights on and everything running, she helps with staffing and organizes a lot of the clinical activities. We work very well as a team to address problems together. My job really is to be there to run interference and offer support so Christina and the hospital staff can get their jobs done.”

Hirko will continue to be a presence at Sharon, he said. The amount of time he spends at each of the two hospitals will change depending on what’s going on. 

Part of a system

Hirko stressed that Sharon Hospital is in a good position to care for community residents now because it’s part of the larger Health Quest/Nuvance system.  A big part of his job at Sharon, he said, has been helping it integrate with the other facilities in the system, which he will now do at Putnam as well.

According to the Nuvance website, Putnam is the only hospital in Putnam County in New York. It is a  “164-bed, acute care hospital offering medical, surgical, psychiatric and 24/7 emergency services.”

Sharon is one of several hospitals in Litchfield County. The Nuvance website says it has “78 general hospital beds and provides a full range of services including: bariatric surgery, cardiology, cardiopulmonary, emergency care, imaging, intensive care, neurosciences, orthopedics, pain management, stroke care, surgical, women’s services and wound care.”

Especially during the early days of COVID-19, Hirko said, it was clear that it helped Sharon to be part of the Nuvance System,  which has seven hospitals in New York State and Connecticut.

“During the crisis,” he noted, “we got nimble at moving staff from hospital to hospital. We want to keep that going on.”

He also noted the benefits of the different hospitals all working together, “instead of competing for patients. We’ve all been working together and integrating together.”

Sharon is getting stronger

Hirko feels confident that Sharon Hospital is strong enough now to share its president with another facility in another state. 

He cited McCulloch’s competence and willingness to step up to a larger role. He also noted that the community has been coming back to the hospital, following the shutdown in the early days of COVID-19.

“Over the past six weeks, as of July 31, Sharon Hospital is about 10% above projections for this period. The hospital is very busy now.”

COVID-19 of course continues to keep the hospital from functioning normally. There are special protocols to check whether emergency and other patients have the virus. Anyone who needs a procedure done and does have the coronavirus is treated at the end of the day, and then the rooms they were in have to be deep cleaned. It’s a lot of organizing and a lot of planning.

Hirko is confident he and McCulloch and the hospital staff can handle it. And he promised to keep himself healthy in the meantime, as the stresses on his shoulders increase. 

“I’m still young,” he said. “I take good care of myself and try to work out every day.”

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