A keen eye on the bottom line and compassion aren’t always embodied in the same financial executive, but colleagues say Camille R. Bash has long embraced both traits.
Bash, 59, took over as CFO of Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham last month. Her promotion from director of financial services was three years in the making, as she was brought on to eventually succeed former CFO Dennis Scanlon.
“We were always concerned someone would come in and swoop her up,” Scanlon said. “She’s the most educated person I know.”
Doctors is a nonprofit hospital that operates with a $200 million budget and admits 12,000 patients annually.
Bash has more than 34 years of experience in finance and has held several executive positions. Her academic background — master’s degrees in both business administration and health care — prepared her for her current job.
“I absolutely love to share my knowledge and to hear [others’] knowledge, and that fuels me,” she said. “I’m a vocal person so I want to get on committees right away. You have to attend the meetings and you have to participate.”
Bash had indeed shared her knowledge with Doctors’ staff, having spent months training department heads how to be responsible for their budgets. The department heads may have been comfortable with the operational side of things, but before Bash arrived they had never helped craft their budgets, she said. Her goal was to help them understand how their finances worked so they could plan for their needs and maintain regular reports.
“We helped each other,” said Jacinta Shelton, who was just coming into her role as administrative director of surgical services when Bash started working with her. “I helped her understand surgical services, and she helped me understand the technical side.”
Shelton said she never felt talked down to.
“Sometimes I had to ask one question three or four times, but she never gave me any attitude,” Shelton said. “It was very obvious she was there to help me understand.”
A unique state
Bash came into the Maryland hospital industry with a limited understanding of the state’s system, which she feared would make it difficult to ascend in the ranks, she said.
Maryland is the only state that uses a waiver that is meant to ensure any increases in patient health care costs don’t exceed the national increase. This allows all insurers working through Medicaid or Medicare to pay the same rates, which are regulated by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, she said.
Bash said the waiver rules necessitate more complex financial systems among Maryland health care providers than in other states.
She also said the commission draws information from all the state’s hospitals when determining rates.
“We all work together to come up with the waiver,” she said.
Though she has worked hard to understand the state’s rules, Bash said, she still uses consultants “religiously.”
But Bash’s concerns were quickly laid to rest when she learned the system and even began pursuing a Ph.D., exploring how the government continues to approve funding mechanisms available for hospitals, but without necessarily making the hospitals aware of them.
Bash and Doctors also have worked with a state program that focuses on connecting patients with follow-up primary care physicians to help prevent avoidable readmissions. Many patients are readmitted because of preventable causes, such as forgetting to take their medication, Bash said.
Her Ph.D. drew the attention of the state commission, which alerted her to a $1 billion grant program under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation’s Health Care Innovation Challenge. Bash wants to fund the state’s patient-primary care program through a grant.
Bash is now pursuing another Ph.D., examining high readmission rates at Prince George’s hospitals.
‘I don’t know when she sleeps’
“She has become a leader in the state and will help guide health care reform,” said Phillip Down, CEO of Doctors. “She thrives on problems and challenges, and positions herself to be at the table.”
Down said everyone in the hospital goes to Bash when they have financial concerns, and she brought the hospital’s entire management team together in its understanding of finances.
“I don’t know when she sleeps or if she does. She sends emails at 12 a.m., 1 a.m. or 6 a.m.,” he joked. “She has this magical amount of energy.”
Scanlon added that Bash goes out of her way to reward — sometimes from her own pocket — employees for a job well done, saying that this was also his philosophy and a sign of a “good leader.”
Bash grew up in a military family in El Paso, Texas. She latched onto finances after giving a management dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin. When she interviewed at Texas Tech University for a general auditing job, she ended up getting hired in patient accounting, where she remained for 10 years.
“I keep getting hired more for my personality than anything,” Bash joked. “They thought I was a go-getter, that I looked like a person who could put in place policies and procedures.”
Because the university had opened its health sciences center just two years before Bash arrived, she was responsible for developing procedures for patient accounting.
Having a husband, John, who also was in the military, meant Bash was moving every four years. She said she wanted to implement changes at each job that would continue after she left.
She later got into financial accounting, which “is all about the cash,” she said.
Bash has been CFO of the Washington Home and Hospice, MedLink Hospital and Nursing Center, and Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C. She also was president of business operations at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.
Bash helped Children’s transition from its old payroll system for 3,300 employees, which was divided among departments, into an integrated one. The change allowed Children’s to limit duplication, said Wayne Swann, former vice president of human resources for Children’s.
“She’s one of the most compassionate people I know,” Swann said. “Most financial people I know think narrowly in terms of applications and don’t understand the impact on the person. Camille understands people’s issues.”
Bash also is waiting to see how federal insurance reform affects the state’s waiver.
“Most of the reform just emphasizes what the state is already doing in terms of available health care,” she said.