No fear: New Conway Regional CEO ready to take on competitor

by Sonja J. Keith

Matt Troup has taken over the reins at Conway Regional Health System and is prepared to compete as a new hospital comes to town.

Conway Regional and CHI St. Vincent recently announced that the two health systems had signed an agreement whereby Conway Regional entered into a five-year management agreement with CHI St. Vincent. The two companies also announced the creation of the Arkansas Health Alliance and named Jim Lambert, former president and CEO of Conway Regional, as its president.

Two weeks after becoming the chief executive officer at Conway Regional, Troup was the guest speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Conway Regional Women’s Council.

Matt introduced his wife, Melissa, and told those in attendance about his four sons. He also said his life can be categorized in three buckets – faith, family and his work. “My faith is integral to what I do. Everything that I face from a business perspective is always done in the context of my Christian faith and background. It’s an important element to who I am,” he said.

Matt spent time listening to employees and asking questions to determine where Conway Regional has been and where it is headed. Based upon those observations, he described the staff as tight-knit and loyal. “People care deeply and passionately about their work.” He added that Conway Regional has a seasoned workforce, with many serving 10 years or longer. “As a guy who has worked in health care for 20 years, that kind of tenure and history is unprecedented,” he said. “That is a real strength for us to build off of.”

Troup also noted Conway Regional’s impressive 77-year history as an independent provider at a time when health care consolidation is increasing.

He said there is strong community support for Conway Regional. He also cited several national benchmarking sources in highlighting Conway Regional’s quality recognition. “Consistently we get feedback that we provide great quality, we provide great patient satisfaction and great safety.”

He also noted that Conway Regional received the Governor’s Quality Award in 2014. “It’s a really impressive award,” he said. “You and this community should be proud of that designation and these other accolades.”

Troup said that while Conway Regional has an outstanding culture, a good staff and has enjoyed great success, change is on the horizon. “As we look back on our history, five to 10 years from now, this time right now will be noted as the most critical time in our 77-year history.

“We have a competitor (Baptist Health) coming to this market that is building a new hospital and we have got to change and adapt to that while at the same time building on and retaining a lot of our core strengths and what we do well.”

Troup read the Conway Regional mission statement, adding that the key word is accountable. “We are going to be accountable to do the right thing and we are going to be accountable to provide great quality care, and accountable to you locally.  Our focus and our accountability are to people who live here and people who get their care here. That care is going to be compassionate and of high quality.”

Presenting an overview of the five-year management agreement between Conway Regional and CHI St. Vincent, Troup said the arrangement helps to preserve local autonomy and control. The arrangement allows Conway Regional to leverage the size and infrastructure of CHI. “There’s a lot of money we can save just by buying patient care supplies and equipment through a Catholic Health relationship than if we went out on our own,” he said, adding that the arrangement will help “provide new services, better services and more robust services for our patients and our community.”

While he is an employee of CHI St. Vincent, Troup said his focus is on making Conway Regional as successful as possible. He said that in talking with Conway Regional staff and others it is obvious that “there is an elephant in the room, in that we have a competitor, a faith-based non-profit competitor from Little Rock, who has decided to come into our market to build a hospital. They felt, I guess, that Jesus’ healing ministry wasn’t being fulfilled enough here at Conway Regional.

“They are in our market. They are talking to our physicians, our staff. They have a philosophy if I build a new hospital and just take Conway Regional staff and physicians, I can market it and people will go to that. That ought to incense everyone in this room. That ought to be a wake-up call. That’s not ok. It’s a principle conversation.

“You guys have so much to be proud – a 77-year history that has accomplished a lot. For a non-profit to come in and take that posture with another non-profit should be a rallying cry for us all and a reason for us to work together to build this hospital into everything it can be. That’s going to mean we’re going to have to change and message ourselves differently.”

Troup said in Scripture there is a verse repeated over 200 times – “Do not be afraid.”

“We have no reason to be afraid. We have a lot of reasons to be proud. That fear, if we let it get out of control, will destroy us. We have to believe in ourselves. We have to leverage our relationships,” he said, asking those in attendance to be Conway Regional’s voice in the community. “We are not going to shrink from the challenge. We’re going to step up to it and in the end be a stronger, better, more viable, higher quality health care institution.”

Troup said he is excited about Conway Regional’s history and its future. “We are going to look back several years from now and say that was a real turning point in the hospital’s history.”

Troup shared his interest in Theodore Roosevelt, who battled physical challenges and endured significant setbacks. During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt and his fellow soldiers were hunkered down at a critical battle at Kettle Hill in Cuba with few options – do nothing, wait for reinforcements or get on his horse and go up the hill, which was risky.

“In hindsight, Theodore Roosevelt called it his most crowded hour. It was that moment in time when everything in his life really mattered. If he could compress everything he was about and everything he stood for, everything he aspired to be, it was in that crowded hour. He decided to get on the horse and go up the hill,” Troup said, adding that his men were inspired and followed him. “The rest is history. He takes the hill. It’s a great battle and a great win for the United States. Theodore’s life changes at that moment.”

Troup related the story to Conway Regional’s current situation. “We are in our most crowded hour. We can either take the approach that our 77-year history, our great care and those great accolades don’t matter or we can say that’s worth fighting for and that’s worth charging up the hill for and that’s what’s going to define our future,” he said. “It is a real privilege to be a part of that, here at this time in this crowded hour. I can’t tell you how fired up I am and I can’t tell you how fired I am to be on this side of that hill and on this side of the battle. I would much rather be with the men and women who have dedicated their lives and who are here for purpose than I would be looking at this from a business prospect with a $150 million in my pocket, trying to find a good story to tell in Conway, Ark.

“We have an awesome story to tell.”