New Winter Haven Hospital President Ready to Tackle Patient Experience, Recruiting
Tom Garthwaite, the new president of Winter Haven Hospital and Winter Haven Women’s Hospital, will use his years of experience working in hospitals to improve patient experience and hire and retain new employees.
He most recently served as president of St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz for three years. He started working for BayCare, which also owns the Winter Haven hospitals, as director of operations at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. While there, he “was instrumental in reducing length-of-stay averages, transitioning some inpatient services from contract work to in-house operations and overseeing large and small construction projects,” according to the hospital’s website.
That experience, along with previous leadership roles in a health care system on Florida’s east coast, has positioned Garthwaite for his new role – as has serving several months as interim president.
“I was fortunate to be able to spend the first two months in an interim role at Winter Haven Hospital. Those two months provided me with time to meet many of the medical staff and our team members,” he said. “I was able to connect with several local organizations and businesses and got to know the community.”
He was attracted to the job for two reasons, Garthwaite said. “The opportunity to lead two hospitals and the hometown feel of Winter Haven and Polk County were the two big drivers in my decision to apply for the president position in Winter Haven. I grew up in the New Smyrna Beach area south of Daytona Beach, which, at the time, had less than 10,000 people.”
He already has a goal in mind as he settles into his new role. “Like most hospitals across the country, I am focusing on our patient experience and quality. Health care organizations have lost many team members who retired or changed careers. This is why recruitment and retention are a top priority.”
Winter Haven Hospital, founded in 1926, has 447 beds; Winter Haven Women’s Hospital has 61. Combined, they employ nearly 2,000 people. They joined BayCare in 2013.
Together with BayCare-owned Bartow Regional Medical Center, the facilities in Polk County have an $800 million economic impact. This is according to a 2020 study from the economic consulting firm Washington Economics Group (WEG).
Garthwaite said he learned a lot while working at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. “It’s a large trauma hospital. As the director of Operations, I was able to be involved in everything it takes to run a hospital. I worked with the hospital president on physician recruitment, strategy and growth.”
His greatest accomplishment at St. Joseph’s in Lutz focused on dealing with COVID and “helping to guide the hospital amid the pandemic. I started at St Joseph’s Hospital North as the president a few days after COVID caused hospitals across the country to reduce visitation and begin an ever-developing series of changes in our use of personal protection equipment to combat this highly contagious virus. It was a roller-coaster time when COVID cases would increase for a few months, then decline, then surge again. New strains of the virus developed, people questioned its existence, and friends and families were divided on the virus and precautions they should take. I think most people agree it was an event we would not want to have happen again in our lifetimes. Through all the challenges, our team stayed strong and overcame it all.”
Garthwaite has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Central Florida. He also has a master’s degree in health service management from Florida Institute of Technology.
He and his wife have five adult children, including two who are finishing college. They moved to Winter Haven in April “and continue to enjoy the community and the Chain of Lakes.”
In late July, Garthwaite and his wife added to their family. “We adopted a beautiful black-and-tan 6-month-old puppy from a rescue in Central Florida. Lady is a Belgian Malinois, so the term ‘puppy’ is relative as she is already 52 pounds of lean muscle.”