Man on a mission

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Naval Hospital’s new commanding officer wants to make sure health facility remains a ‘high reliability’ organization

By MINDY LUCAS

Captain Raymond Batz is on a mission.

As the new commanding officer for both the Naval Hospital Beaufort and the 127-acre installation itself – a unique double command – Batz wants to make sure patients and their families are in good hands at the health facility.

To do this requires a three-prong focus, he said: always caring, which is the hospital’s motto, a drive toward high reliability as an organization and being balanced for dynamic change.

That may sound like so much military speak but as Batz explained in an in-person interview recently, it’s all meant to make sure the health facility is operating as a “high reliability” organization at all times.

“High reliability means we’re doing the best we can to ensure that we’re going through each day deliberately, and, from a healthcare perspective if we have a focus, it’s a zero-harm focus,” he said.

Batz took over command of Naval Hospital Beaufort  from the previous CO, Capt. Rob Jackson who retired in May.

Having recently served as Deputy Commanding Officer at Tripler Army Medical Center in O’ahu, Hawaii, Batz comes to the Beaufort facility in a time of recent transition.

In just the last year, the hospital made the federally mandated transition to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Beaufort, which means, like many military health facilities across the country, it realigned its services.

For Naval Hospital Beaufort, that means switching from care that includes hospitalizations to providing only outpatient care. However the health facility, which supports both Parris Island and the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as well, will continue to provide overnight stays for recruits when needed.

Batz said the health facility will continue to ensure that recruits become Marines in a way that’s healthy while getting them ready to become Marines.

It’s a transition that he is familiar with having helped to take Tripler Army Medical Center through a similar transition, though it was a larger market in terms of health care services.

The lessons he learned in O’ahu, he said, will help as Naval Hospital Beaufort as it continues adapting to the transition.

“The next time I talk with you, we may be talking about how the (healthcare) market is going to grow in the Lowcountry,” he said.

If there are challenges with the transition, it is continuing to provide quality medical care for the more than 35,000 beneficiaries that make up the health facilities total population served – something Batz said the healthcare facility is committed to doing.

“The big thing to work through here is to make sure we’re keeping faith we’re our responsibility to take care of the active duty and their families here in the Lowcountry,” he said.

Developing expertise in medicine and leadership

Though he was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, Batz actually thinks of Western Pennsylvania as home since he completed his middle school through high school years there, and attended Grove City College, in Grove City, Pa.

He went on to attend Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Kirksville, Mo., for medical school and was commissioned as a medical corps officer upon graduating.

Batz once thought he would go into family medicine and had even served as a family physician on a deployment in the Philippines, but he soon gravitated toward operational medicine, or medicine in a deployed setting.

A unique residency in aerospace medicine focusing on operational medicine gave him the opportunity to get the training he needed to become the senior medical officer (SMO) on an aircraft carrier.

It was a job he very much enjoyed, he said.

“At that point in my career, I thought that was the pinnacle of operational medicine,” he said reminiscing. “And it may still be. When you’re the SMO on an aircraft carrier, you’re sometimes 2,000 miles away over an ocean from the nearest other medical facility.”

Batz went on to be deployed multiple times serving onboard the USS Kitty Hawk.

He then parlayed his training as an aerospace medicine specialist into an opportunity to work for NASA, another organization with a high reliability ethos.

“The best practices of aerospace medicine dovetail perfectly into … becoming a high reliability organization,” he said.

Now, in perhaps is greatest leadership role yet, Batz is finding these experiences will serve him well as he takes command at Naval Hospital Beaufort.

Going forward his goals are fairly simple.

“The key concept is daily to work to improve communication, teamwork and readiness,” he said. “That’s been a goal of mine since Kitty Hawk.”

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