Reorganization process improved profitability

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Sean Barden
Mary Washington Healthcare

Sean Barden’s biggest accomplishment at Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg is his 2014 effort to “right-size” the organization so its resources were consistent with the number of patients it serves.

His work resulted in a $27 million operating profit improvement and a 14 percent reduction in personnel based on patient occupancy in one year. Most of the staffing reductions were accomplished through attrition.

“There had been a lot of changes in rapid succession that the organization had to absorb, such as the recession, the Affordable Care Act and growing competition,” he says. “The hospital had a couple of years of operating losses as those shocks came in. We had to look at that and make sure we had the right number of people.”

Mary Washington’s results have continued to improve. In 2016, the health system had its best financial year ever.

Barden’s efforts also have led to the refinancing of Mary Washington’s long-term debt at greatly reduced interest rates. The health system’s recent financial performance and balance sheet strength resulted in Fitch Ratings upgrading its rating from BBB+ to A-. Dr. Michael McDermott, president and CEO of Mary Washington Healthcare, praises Barden’s financial acumen and leadership abilities. “We can look to him to help us with strategic decisions and know that he will put us on the right course,” McDermott says.

Barden, a native of Vienna, Va., came to Mary Washington in 2007 after a career in health-care finance that included serving as CFO at Lake Forest Hospital outside of Chicago. “I enjoyed the organization, but my wife is a Virginia girl and hated Chicago,” he says. “I like to tell people she found this job for me. It was a really good opportunity.”

Since he joined Mary Washington, Barden’s work has helped the organization execute its strategies. He converted the health system’s defined-benefit retirement plan to a defined-contribution plan in which employees invest in the program. The change resulted in $6 million in annual savings.

Barden is always able to financially “connect the dots and see how it all folds together and have it operate as efficiently as possible,” says Therese Wareham, managing director and CEO of Kaufman Hall, a management consulting and financial advisory firm in Chicago. “He has the ability to work with and lead people in a way that allows them to execute and enhance the vision he has for the organization.”

Barden is a decisive leader and once he has made an informed decision “he does not second-guess himself,” says Clarence A. Robinson, director of fiscal affairs for the city of Fredericksburg and a member of the Mary Washington Healthcare board of trustees. “He will work to execute his plan with full confidence and commitment.”

A member of the health system’s senior leadership, Barden enjoys being able to work with his team and help set a course for the organization. Barden works hard and “expects you to work hard, but in a fair way,” says health-care consultant Joe Becht of Becht Advisory Group LLC in Mechanicsville. “He takes responsibility. He’s not going to throw any of his people under the bus.”

Barden has a quiet leadership style as well as the ability to “remove his ego from his decision-making process, to take the lead and act with authority and to remain calm and focused in the face of adversity,” Robinson says.

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