LaTasha Barnes brings a new vision to Bayfront Health

LaTasha R. Barnes, chief financial officer, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

BY NICOLE SLAUGHTER GRAHAM, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s been over a year since Orlando Health made plans to buy out St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Health System, but the official announcement did not reach the public until this past July, and the sale of Bayfront to Orlando Health was not completed until October.

Latasha Barnes, the CFO of Orlando Health’s Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, knew about the company’s plans to acquire Bayfront, and at first, she did not think it would affect her position with the company.

“I thought I was going to stay in Orlando,” she said in an interview.

But the ins and outs of acquisitions — figuring out how to integrate one institution into a larger organization — is a challenge Barnes could not pass up.

“This is what I love. I’m an auditor by background and this is the work I like to do.”

Barnes comes to the table with 20 years of experience in hospital finance. Before transitioning into hospital finance, she worked as an auditor in an external auditing firm before joining an internal auditing firm at a hospital.

When she found her way into hospital finance, though, Barnes said she’d tapped into a clear path to make a difference in healthcare. She saw in Bayfront an opportunity to make the lives of the community better and healthier. After moving to St. Petersburg and settling into her new role, Barnes hit the ground running.

Through conversations with many team members, she and other Orlando Health executives learned that those on the frontlines felt that Bayfront had forgotten them. She said her first order of business was to ensure Bayfront’s team members knew Orlando Health would stand by and support them.

“The biggest win we could have right now is just making sure we have invested, engaged, team members. Those are the people who are taking care of our community,” she stated. “Our patients need to know we’re here for them, and that starts with engaged, passionate and happy team members.”

A cognizant CFO, she said, knows that everything from quality to compliance and nursing care to maintenance is tied to the bottom line.

“I like to tell my managers I’m not your typical CFO. I understand that without the mission, there is no margin. The sky is the limit when that foundation is set, and that culture is in place.”

This unique perspective is what she plans to bring to Bayfront to revitalize the hospital’s legacy, and that starts with team members and company morale.

Additionally, Barnes said Orlando Health is invested in civic engagement and is currently seeking ways to engage with the community.

“We’re planning on connecting with the community through the St. Pete Downtown Partnership, the Economic Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce to start.”

She said community engagement would allow Orlando Health to figure out what the community needs in a hospital and believes Bayfront is in a unique position to create a culture of more equitable health within the community.

“Typically, we don’t have to go looking for patients, but I think we have an opportunity to take stock of what’s happening in our community and figure out what needs some extra attention,” she said. “We need to figure out where can we focus on prevention and wellness in the community.”

Everything takes time, but she said Orlando Health is fully committed to long-term, overall community health.

“We’re just really excited to be here, Barnes averred. “We’re looking forward to being a positive impact on the community. We’re looking forward to making our presence known. We want everyone to know that this is the place you come for quality care.”

To reach Nicole Slaughter Graham, email nslaughtergraham@theweeklychallenger.com

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