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Providing a Safety Net

On the job with Mary Andrews, system director, government and community relations at Lee Health



Before recently becoming system
director, government and community relations at Lee Health in Fort Myers, Mary Andrews served as director of
economic development at Boise State University in Idaho. While there, she worked closely with university researchers
and local physicians to develop the first
 3D motion lab in Idaho, which has since helped children with complex musculoskeletal problems such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Her time and dedication to the health and wellbeing of her community has prepared her well for this role.

What is one of the first things on the agenda for you?

The first has to do with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. There’s so much uncertainty about its future. I’m examining it closely and working with elected officials at all levels. Much of [Lee Health’s] revenue comes from reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. Changes to the system will have an economic impact on both Lee Health and the entire community. Second, I want to meet with as many individuals, both internally and externally, as possible. My priority is to understand the landscape we’re functioning in and what resources are available, and to create strategic partnerships that help Lee Health.

How did your time at Boise State University prepare you for your new role?

The work I’ll be doing at Lee Health is very similar to what I was doing there. I worked on community partnerships and forged relationships with the government that created win-win outcomes for everyone involved.

What was one partnership that you’re particularly proud of?

The partnership between the university and St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital to create the state’s first 3D-motion lab. In the past, doctors had to send patients with complex musculoskeletal problems like spina bifida and cerebral palsy out of state for medical assessments, but now they have the equipment they need to conduct pre-operative and post- operative assessments. We overcame many regulatory issues to help make the lab happen, and I managed the negotiations between the university, the physicians, the hospital system and our faculty.

How will the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act’s future affect Lee Health?

Lee Health is considered a “safety net hospital,” so we provide care regardless of whether or not a patient can pay for it. Ten percent of our business goes toward charity care. We also don’t accept tax support from residents, and we rely on reimbursements from the state and federal government, so part of my job is managing the relationship we have with the government. It’s a very complicated issue, and the ramifications are immense. I worry about the outcome and the economic impact it could have on our community. 

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