By Steve Yablonski
New CEO slated to take over position starting Jan. 1
Michael Backus will be the new president and CEO of Oswego Health on Jan. 1, 2023, as Michael Harlovic, current president and CEO, retires.
Backus, currently the chief operating officer and executive vice president, worked alongside Harlovic and other members of the senior leadership team to stabilize the health system during the pandemic. Harlovic and Backus will continue to work together to ensure a smooth transition throughout the remainder of 2022.
“I’ve been working collaboratively with Mike for the past two years as we’ve been preparing for my retirement and this transition,” Harlovic said. “I have no big plans yet. However, I do hope to spend more time with my new granddaughter and two sons.”
Harlovic said he is confident in Mike’s ability to lead the organization. “He’s very much a people person and connected. My advice would simply be to empower your staff and leaders to help them take Oswego Health to the next level.”
“When I officially become president and CEO on Jan. 1, I will already be directing the mission and vision of Oswego Health which is to provide accessible, high-quality care that improves the health of the residents in our community,” Backus said. “Building on that by expanding services in Fulton, Oswego and other parts of our community will help bring that care even closer to our patients.”
He said he wants to improve the overall health and well-being of the community.
“We’ll do that by recruiting the next generation of caregivers that will build upon our 141-year foundation of care in this community,” he explained.
“Uniquely my background in government helps here as healthcare, especially in our community, is heavily reliant on Medicare and Medicaid from a payer source. Advocating for further investment in healthcare at the state and federal level is sadly where we are right now as the challenges healthcare nationally face is directly tied to escalating costs and reduction in reimbursement rates,” said Backus, formerly the Oswego County clerk. “We as a country have to level-set the cost of care, which has exploded during the pandemic and payment mechanisms that are very flat and stagnant. Thankfully I have good relationships at the state and national level, which I have already utilized to ensure healthcare systems like Oswego Health that provide care in rural, underserved areas are not lost in the shuffle. Ensuring our voice is heard is a daily responsibility and one that I plan to expand upon as president and CEO of Oswego Health.”
His role is structured around ensuring the caregivers have what they need to provide the care that patients require, he continued.
“Ensuring they have the infrastructure in place, the teammates around them and the work-life balance that is so critical in today’s world is my job,” he said. “I also must make sure the business plan makes sense and all the other metrics are moving in the right direction. However, patient care comes first at Oswego Health. That’s always going to be our priority. And, throughout the pandemic, I believe that was evident.”
Oswego Health stepped up not only inside its walls at the hospital, Seneca Hill Manor, Springside, Lakeview Center for Mental Health and everywhere else—but also externally through support in area congregate living locations that needed assistance with infection control management, according to Backus.
“Our team rallied when called upon to provide the care this community needed when it needed it the most. We were able to do that because of the commitment of our caregivers. Ensuring I had their back throughout the pandemic and now as our community begins to reopen, is always top of mind. Building that trust and communication with the front-line teams providing the care was job number one and it’s something we continue to build upon,” he said.
“The entire healthcare industry is challenged right now managing the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting impacts. From controlling the cost of care and working with payers to ensure hospitals and health systems are justly paid for the critical care they provide; to recruitment and retention of labor and the rising costs associated; with determining how to safely reopen services,” Harlovic pointed out. “I have to say that though the industry continues to be faced with challenges, I am beyond proud of our team at Oswego Health. This community will continue to be our greatest priority.”
Since 2017, Harlovic has overseen the strategic, executive, and operational guidance for Oswego Health and his leadership has been pivotal in the expansion of services and has made access to local healthcare a priority of the organization.
“I remember when I first interviewed and visited the community back in early 2017, how taken back I was by all it had to offer,” Harlovic recalled. “Every great community, in my opinion, consists of key pillars — a strong educational system such as SUNY Oswego, industrial powerhouses such as Exelon Generation and Novelis, and access to affordable healthcare. These pillars must all work together to benefit the overall community. I honestly believe right here in Oswego County we have those key pillars. We’ve worked together in unison to support one another; attract and retain the best talent; improving the quality of life and overall safety.”
“As I retire, I will miss this community I’ve called ‘home’ for the past six years—but more importantly the people I’ve met along the way and our incredibly dedicated employees. Our employees are our number one asset and it’s been an honor working alongside each one of them to assure this community has the quality care it needs and deserves,” he added. “Overseeing the strategic, executive and operational guidance for the health system my priority was always to uphold our mission and commitment to this community by providing access to quality care.”
Working collaboratively with the senior leadership team and the Oswego Health board of directors, Harlovic said he’s proud of the progressive growth the health system has had in such a short period, including the expansion and addition of 10 new specialty services, the investments made not only in the modernization of its facilities but in technology and most importantly staff.
“This community is our priority and I know Oswego Health’s best days are ahead,” he said.
Backus agreed. “Our leadership team at Oswego Health has never been stronger and I am blessed to be able to provide consistency to our frontline caregivers through every member of our leadership team. Right now, Michael Harlovic and I are focused on reopening our system and navigating the challenging healthcare environment in which we find ourselves. More news on the leadership team will be announced as we align for future growth.”
Backus holds a master’s degree in public administration, along with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Le Moyne College, where he is also a member of the board of regents and was accepted into the American Hospital Association NextGen Fellowship Program.