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Greeted with a challenge

BRADENTON — New Manatee Memorial Hospital executive Kevin DiLallo was making the rounds during his first official day on the job Monday when he was confronted with one of the biggest challenges he faces here.

Christine Wink, the mother of a 40-year-old man who is out of work and on the brink of homelessness, stopped DiLallo in the radiology department.

The 60-year-old retired nurse, visiting from Rapid City, S.D., broke down as she described the roadblocks she has endured trying to get help for Daniel Wallace’s sleep apnea and cellulitis.

He can’t work because he can’t sleep, and he can’t get good treatment because he doesn’t have a job, she said.

“I paid Medicaid and Medicare taxes my whole career. Now my son is getting no respect. We should be ashamed of our health care system,” Wink said, frustrated after she couldn’t get Wallace an X-ray because of the extensive documentation needed on a county assistance form.

DiLallo listened for more than 10 minutes and suggested ways Wink could get the help she needs.

“He was very attentive,” Wink said.

Later, DiLallo said the exchange is an increasingly common aspect of a hospital executive’s job. The indigent care crisis has been well-documented in Manatee County, one of the few entities in the region without a health care tax.

“People come in, they’re looking at the hospital as their haven to take care of them, and they don’t know where to turn,” he said. “There are resources for her out there. It just seemed like she was hitting walls.”

Though he has been visiting the hospital off and on since his hiring Feb. 26, DiLallo officially settled into his office and his title of Manatee Health Systems group vice president on Monday. He will serve as chief executive officer of Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, overseeing 1,800 employees and 600 physicians.

DiLallo comes to Manatee County from Wellington Medical Center in Palm Beach County, where he spent 12 years in administrative positions. He replaces Moody Chisholm, who left March 12 after 3 1/2 years to become president and CEO of St. Vincent Healthcare in Jacksonville.

DiLallo is a veteran executive for Universal Health Services, Manatee Memorial’s parent company. Last week, he received the UHS Chairman’s Award for the fourth time.

“His success at Wellington gave us a comfort level. We look forward to his bringing that success over here,” said Vernon DeSear, Manatee Memorial’s vice president of marketing and business development. “He knows the Florida market. It’s not like you’re having to start all over again, which is one of the things we’ve had to do in the past.”

DiLallo said he hopes to repeat many of the successes he had at Wellington, where the hospital invested more than $60 million in capital improvements during his tenure.

DiLallo said it is too early to comment on what changes he might make at Manatee Memorial. He’ll spend the first month getting to know the hospital’s operations and meeting political leaders, he said.

He also hopes to become active in the community. DiLallo served as president of the Palms West Chamber of Commerce in Wellington before taking his new position.

“My intention is to be the face of the hospital,” DiLallo said. “I was very involved in the community where I came from. I enjoy doing that.”

He plans to take up Chisholm’s cause of helping the hospital deal with the growing number of people without health insurance. He said the health reform bill, with its promise to cover about 90 percent of the country, will ease the hospital’s burden.

“I think it will help the health care system. I’m a little concerned about the cost of it,” DiLallo said. “The bill is over 2,000 pages. It’s hard to say what will work and what won’t work.”