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I worked at VHA full-time for more than 10 yearsPros
Despite its numerous mistakes, VHA is still the industry leader in the health care group purchasing business. The company has an enormous set of talented, experienced employees (mostly in the regional offices) who really want to help their clients (mostly hospitals) improved their performance, whether that be financial or clinical.Cons
It starts at the top. The CEO is the former CFO with no historical background in health care. He is better suited to be an investment banker than lead a health care company. He is personally eccentric (to say the least) and lacks a strategic vision for the company that makes any sense. As a result, there are constant corporate reorganization, significant changes in strategic direction and product offerings and, as a result, significant layoffs of long-time, experienced staff occur about every two years. The dark joke at VHA is to not answer a call from your supervisor after December 1 in the odd-numbered years--it's likely to be your layoff notice.
VHA used to have great benefits, but has stripped most of that away over the years. Their expense reporting system is awful for the end user (great at issuing reports for finance) and is often used by managers to harass and torment disliked employees. They froze the pension plan 10 years ago. During the recession they froze salaries for several years and then allowed managers enormous discretion about where to give a raise even if the employee scored in the top 10% of performance reviews. I went five years without a single raise despite review in the top tier every year and there was no catch-up payments once VHA was doing great financially.
It's very curious to look at a health care organization like VHA and realize virtually no physicians work for it and none in a leadership role. The same can be said, to a lesser extent, for nurses. It didn't used to be that way. What does that tell you about the culture and values of an organization that is supposed to improving the clinical performance of American health care?
And that's the crux of it--a failure of leadership at all levels of management in the company. The front-line employees are great and the heart of the company, in addition to being the face of the company with their hospital clients 98% of the time. But management takes them for granted, abuses them and throws them out on the street every time the CEO and his executive team get an itch to go in a different direction. The worst offenders are about 50% of the managers of the regional offices and nearly all of the executive team that reports to the CEO. As other writers have noted, they are all very well-paid and secure and intend to keep that way. Since VHA is organized as co-operative and the board is largely made up of owners/clients, there is not the kind of scrutiny and accountability I see at well-governed not-for-profit and for-profit companies. It's a good ol' boy organization in the board room and among the executive team. VHA's clients, with their not-for-profit, community-focused missions, deserve better.Advice to ManagementAdvice
Clean house. Get a new CEO who has a clear vision and is willing to implement it in the long term. Get rid of the long-term members of the executive team who simply want to protect their turf and their comp. Also, get rid of the newer members of the executive team who are downright vicious and are willing to do anything to advance their careers. That includes my former manager.Doesn't RecommendNeutral OutlookDisapproves of CEO