Healthcare Means Everything for South Seminole Hospital COO

Jun 12, 2018 at 11:01 am by Staff


Ask Maggie Bonko and she will tell you: Good quality health care is not just about treating patients when they are sick, "it means caring for all aspects of a person... it's all encompassing."

The COO of South Seminole Hospital, part of the Orlando Health System, is putting that philosophy to work as she oversees the completion of a new $42 million, 30-acre medical complex in Lake Mary.

The complex is part of the new mixed-use community, New Century, in Lake Mary that will have offices, residences, hotel and retail elements. The goal for this community is to become a sustainable place to live, play and work, and the medical wellness town center is a big part of that.

As someone who grew up in eastern Kentucky, "surrounded by nurses," Bonko said, "I like looking at health care as a whole-life-package."

The project will feature a free-standing emergency room with 24 exam rooms, an imaging department, ambulance bays and a helipad. In addition, a four-story, 90,000-square-foot medical pavilion will be home to a wider array of outpatient services that are geared to serve Lake Mary's current needs while being able to anticipate and adapt to the community's future needs. The health care site includes an acute care hospital, additional medical offices, a potential ambulatory surgery center and other health and wellness concepts.

The new medical complex is just one element in Orlando health's presence in Seminole County.

"We have 15 access-points for the community," said Bonko, "including five urgent care facilities in which we partner with other healthcare providers." These "access points" include the South Seminole Hospital, primary care and urgent care offices, imaging clinic, cancer center and the Lake Mary project. It's a sprawling set of facilities that serves the diverse county of a half-million people just north of Orlando.

This is all part of a constantly evolving set of challenges for Bonko, who has been the COO for South Seminole for the past year and a half. "The challenges are just part of the fun," she said.

Running the operations of a such a complex health system wasn't an obvious goal when Bonko was starting her career. She majored in biology at the University of Kentucky, and then took a turn into business management for her masters.

Operations, the business of running a business, is what brought Bonko to Orlando. She was working with Lexmark, the big printer and printer supply company that was spun off from IBM in the early 1990s. She was an executive working in the operations area when a corporate transfer brought her to Orlando, and she knew right away she had found a new home. When the business went through a big downsizing 13 years ago, the opportunity arose to combine her understanding of business with her love of people:

She became a nursing recruiter for Orlando health. It was a perfect fit.

Soon, Bonko was rising through the ranks, becoming the head of nursing recruitment for South Seminole Hospital. Then in 2013 she tapped back into her operations roots, helping to set up the department of operations at another part of the Orlando Health system, Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, in 2013.

A year and a half ago Orlando Health gave her a choice to become chief operating officer for either Dr. Phillips Hospital or South Seminole Hospital. She wanted to stay in Seminole County. It was a good call.

"It's never the same day twice," said Bonko. "My job is to be a problem solver and to remove barriers."

Overcoming challenges is a lot easier when you have good people around you, and Bonko is quick to lavish praise on her co-workers.

"I am lucky to work with people who are a lot smarter than me," she said. "I am surrounded by leaders who amaze me on a daily basis. So, my role is to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs, and then to stand back and get out of the way."

Bonko makes it sound easy, but that clarity of purpose is a big part of the secret to her success. With more than a thousand employees, including more than 500 physicians, she knows how important it is to keep people working as part of a team.

"Our teams are very entwined with each other," she said. "Everyone has a role in the quality of the patient experience." For example, minimizing the chance for a patient to develop an infection is everyone's job. From the person who cleans the room or hallway to the nursing staff and physicians, everyone understands the importance of this and their role in achieving this goal.

"You don't change an organization's culture, you create one until it becomes your culture," Bonko said. "Every decision we make is tied back to the patients."

This approach helps keep Bonko and her team focused on the mission of patient care.

"How do make sure every dollar we spend goes back to care for our patients?"

That's the question that drives this chief operating officer. The goal that question helps her to reach is a lot simpler; "The cool thing is that as much as I love our patients, I love it more then they aren't here and are instead home with their loved ones, enjoying life."

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