Valley Health welcomes new CFO

By Katie Demeria

Valley Health’s new Senior Vice President and CFO Peter Gallagher comes to the position with a great deal of experience, and said he hopes that experience will help the health system respond to national changes in health care.

Gallagher will officially start his position June 2. He has over 30 years of experience in the management of health systems, according to a Valley Health news release. Most recently, he has worked for two years with his own consulting business.

Gallagher said he does not have any major plans in mind regarding changes to Valley Health’s finances.

“I just hope I can bring some new, fresh perspectives from the other places I’ve worked,” he said.

The debate over Medicaid expansion still raging in Richmond promises to have a substantial financial impact on Valley Health. According to CEO Mark Merrill, the health system could gain $12 million with expansion in 2015, and $24 million in 2016.

But without, it stands to lose $28 million.

Gallagher said that with such a major financial swing possible in the system’s future, he believes the best way to respond in the meantime is to keep up with the constantly changing national health care climate.

“We need to continue to look for new programs, to be responsive to community need that will also generate revenue for us,” he said.

“We also need to look at our expenses. Back in December the organization had to do that, and we would not want to be in a position to do it again,” he continued.

Earlier this year, the system cut 33 positions, a decision Merrill attributed to many factors, including Virginia’s decision not to expand Medicaid at the time.

Those new programs Gallagher referred to may include clinical programs, he said, that Valley Health does not yet provide, responding to what the community needs when choosing those programs.

When it comes to patients who may be having difficulty paying their medical bills, Gallagher said in the future the system will not be able to do much more than it can now. The system offers a financial assistance program that helps with those costs.

The program, he said, operates in several different ways, possibly allowing patients to pay off their bills in installments or have the bill reduced partially based on the individual’s financial need.

The best way to help those patients, though, he pointed out, is through programs like Medicaid.

The health system has two hospitals in West Virginia, which has expanded Medicaid.

“We’ve seen, even in these early months, a clear shift from what we call self-paid patients, to Medicaid patients,” Gallagher said. “So that tell us if the legislation is in place, people do gain Medicaid coverage and that status.”

Gallagher’s background includes involvement in complex health organizations, he said, that are involved in the competitive marketplace. He has also been involved with a “wide range of clinical programs,” including both teaching and non-teaching facilities. He said he believes that background will allow him to serve the health system well.

“I’m interested in helping Valley Health be the best resource to the community that it can possibly be,” he said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com