We are pleased to introduce a new series – CEO Spotlight – where we interview the leaders of key industries across Avista’s service territory. We’ll discuss the current state of the industry, challenges, opportunities, and of course, the role of energy.
First up, Greg Repetti, President of MultiCare Inland Northwest Hospitals. Health care is one of the most significant drivers of economic and community vitality in the greater Spokane region. It is also one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Learn about Repetti’s first-hand experience leading through one of the most difficult periods in recent history and lessons learned from this dynamic health care veteran.
The greater Spokane region is a health and life sciences industry hub. The region is home to 500 companies that employ more than 36,000 workers, with health care and social assistance jobs projected to grow three times faster than the Spokane economy, as a whole. The University District in downtown Spokane is at the heart of this industry and includes two medical schools, a school of nursing and a variety of workforce programs. But much like other businesses, health care is shifting its needs and strategies based on demographics, technology, and recent learnings from the pandemic.
The health care industry has been hard hit by COVID-19. This is clearly evident when talking with Greg Repetti about the past two years.
“I am incredibly proud of the team of people we have in our hospitals. We went through a lot,” Repetti reflected. “It’s been a roller coaster for all of us. Our nurses saw more death over the past two years in our ICUs than they would normally see in a decade. It took a toll on people emotionally.”
A seasoned health care executive with 40 years of experience, Repetti came to Spokane in 2010 where he served as Chief Operating Officer of Deaconess Hospital for almost three years before being asked to take the role of Chief Operating Officer at Rockwood Clinic in February 2013. He left Rockwood Clinic in 2014 to become the President of Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley. In May 2020, Repetti assumed the role of President for MultiCare Inland Northwest Hospitals, which includes both Deaconess and Valley Hospitals. Between the two hospitals, Repetti oversees a team of about 2,900 health care professionals.
Coming out of the pandemic, Repetti points to the challenges facing his hospitals and the health care industry. They are working hard to reschedule surgical and other procedures that were cancelled or delayed over the past two years, to bring up their economic performance and to address the massive labor shortages that are occurring in the health care industry.
“Like everyone else, we experienced the ‘Great Resignation’, maybe more so than others,” he said. “Working in hospitals was tough. Our greatest challenge is replacing those people who decided they were done - and doing it in a way that we continue to provide incredible care.”
To fill the gap, MultiCare Inland Northwest has partnered with many local colleges and universities to provide education and training, including many located on or near the University District in Spokane.
“I believe that people in health care are called to be in health care, whether you’re a nurse, doctor, med tech or a housekeeper,” Repetti smiled. “We need to connect people to their ‘Why’. Connecting to what we do is a really important piece of what creates culture in our hospitals. We take care of people when they’re vulnerable, when they’re sick, when they’re challenged, when they’re scared. And that’s a really noble kind of thing. If we can connect people to that, we are able to keep people in our industry and attract new people, too.”
Along with challenges, there are also tremendous opportunities for the health care industry. Telemedicine exploded during the pandemic and will continue to play a key role in the future. Expanding health care to the home will make needs for energy even more critical. Additionally, demand for access to primary care is strong and meeting the growing need for outpatient clinics is both a challenge and opportunity.
“The growth numbers are staggering, and the big challenge is how do we continue to meet the needs, particularly on the ambulatory side,” Repetti explained. “Spokane is blessed as a community to have two really, really good health care systems. Providence and MultiCare provide great health care to this community and will continue to do so into the future. I think the community needs two really good health care systems. We’re big enough to have that.”
An award-winning not-for-profit, values-driven organization, MultiCare is preparing to celebrate its five-year anniversary in Spokane this summer. The health care provider has partnered with many local organizations and routinely invests up to $500,000 each year on initiatives focused on creating a healthy community including mental health and food insecurity.
“Of our six core values, the one I like the most is kindness,” Repetti smiled. “When I think about making decisions, I always go back to ‘is it the kind thing to do?’ and ‘is it consistent with our values?’. I’ve never been second-guessed on a decision if I use our values as the basis for making decisions. That’s been rewarding as a president to have those values drive our decisions as a company.”
Another core value – stewardship – is reflected in MultiCare Inland Northwest’s approach to energy. Both Deaconess and Valley hospitals are huge consumers of energy and are investing in facility infrastructure upgrades to reduce their environmental footprint. This includes everything from updating boiler plants to investing in chillers and retrofitting light fixtures, in partnership with their energy providers, Avista and Modern Electric, respectively.
Reflecting back on the past two years, Repetti shared some of the lessons he’s learned as a health care leader.
“I think lessons learned for all of us, is you have to be flexible. When things get tough, you have to stay true to your core values. Both your organization’s and personally,” he reflected. “This has been a really hard two years. What made it really hard was when everything got so politicized and health care workers got caught in the middle. I learned how important it is to never take for granted your employees and your people. And to always be there for them.”