If you were to devise a checklist of the things that make a certain region a good place to live or locate a new company in, one of the top requirements, if not the top one, would be a high-quality health care system. Right up there with quality public schools, an outstanding health care system is vital for the continued growth and expansion of any region.

In Central Virginia, we are fortunate to have a system as solid as Centra Health. From the flagship Lynchburg General Hospital — a level two trauma center — to community hospitals in Bedford and Farmville and from the Pearson Cancer Center to primary care practices throughout the region, Centra provides a level of care not many other communities our size enjoy.

This is the role Dr. Andy Mueller is coming into as Centra’s new CEO, replacing E.W. Tibbs, who resigned in October 2018. It’s an enormous task with the health of the community — both physical and economic — riding on his success in the job.

Mueller, who assumed his new duties earlier this month, knows he faces challenges. In 2018, Centra had its first fiscal year in the red in 10 years, losing a reported $30 million. It’s in the process of implementing a complex, new electronic health records system for all its operations, and the rollout has not been trouble-free. There have been two recent rounds of layoffs at the upper and middle levels of management with more possible. The wholly-owned Piedmont Community Health Plan continues to lose money.

But ... .

As significant as the challenges facing Centra are, Mueller is taking over the reins of a health system that, for the most part, delivers stellar care to its patients. Just consider these accolades and achievements:

» Lynchburg General is a top 50 cardiovascular hospital with the highest rating from the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons for open heart surgery.

» Lynchburg General is also the region’s only certified national primary stroke center.

» Forbes magazine rates Lynchburg General as one of its “Safest Hospitals in America.”

» Lynchburg General is a Beacon Award for Excellence honoree, in addition to being recognized as Magnet honoree for the quality of its nursing staff.

The system that founding CEO George Dawson and his team assembled in 1987 when Lynchburg General and Virginia Baptist hospitals merged is critical to the growth of Central Virginia. Mueller is well aware of the challenges he’s up against, but we also think his being the first practicing physician as CEO will bring a critical perspective to the job. Lastly, George Dawson’s leadership of Centra should serve as his lodestar: Everything, every job, every decision is about the patient and the community ... everything.

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