Altru Health System announced on Friday, Nov. 22, that Dr. Steven Weiser, the system’s current chief medical officer, will become president of the organization on Jan. 1.
The move fills a role that has been vacant since March, when Dr. Eric Lunn, Altru’s previous president, retired.
“Where I see our vision is, we’re an integrated health system — essentially a stand-alone independent in a sphere and a world of big corporations,” Weiser said in a telephone interview. “And we really want to maintain our community-based independence of local control and influence, and really try to provide the best services to our customers, which are our patients, every day.”
Weiser has had a lengthy medical career. A graduate of the University of Manitoba’s medical school, he has served in a wide range of roles in emergency medicine since at least the early 2000s, according to a release from the health system. Since January, he has served as Altru’s chief medical officer.
His appointment comes amid questions about Altru’s financial future. Moody’s, a New York financial firm, downgraded Altru’s revenue bond ratings earlier this year to “good” with an outlook towards “fair.” The financial group cited numerous reasons, including “declining operating performance, declining liquidity and weakening debt measures that we anticipate will continue over the near term,” according to a company report.
Cash on hand appeared to be dwindling, according to that report, which also mentioned concerns over leadership turnover.
At the time, Altru officials said the system’s woes were a result of industry-wide concerns — something Weiser echoed on Friday. He underscored that revenues and payments, like those from Medicare and Medicaid, are not expected to increase. He argued that it makes Altru’s recent performance unsurprising and said it means the health care system needs to look at where it can effectively cut expenses.
“There’s expenses we can’t control — like, what are the things we need to do that are in the patient’s best interest?” Weiser said in a phone interview. “And then there’s the negotiating from the state level, federal level, in terms of controlling costs to consumer, like health care costs such as pharmaceuticals, biomedical products that are exorbitantly expensive that really ramp up the costs of global health care.”
Weser is expected to work closely with current CEO Brad Wehe, who praised his colleague in a release on Friday.
“Dr. Weiser and I share the value of keeping the patient at the center of every decision we make as an organization, and that commitment will continue to drive us forward in our vision to deliver world-class health care,” Wehe said in the prepared statement. “I’m excited to partner with him.”