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Commissioners, TCHS board move forward

Strategic planning, increased communication, on-hand leadership, a real concentration on rebuilding trust; these are just some of the issues needing addressed as the Thayer County Health Services Board of Trustees tackle replacing the administrator of the hospital.

Joyce Beck, who had served as CEO since 2004, was relieved of her duties Feb. 20, and now the Board of Trustees is faced with finding a new administrator.

Regional Director of Rural Health through Catholic Health Initiatives, Janelle Ali-Dinar, laid out the list of tasks to Thayer County Commissioners Wednesday morning, Feb. 27. “We also want to find someone to facilitate dialogue,” she said during the conference, suggesting a mediator to create synergy among the trustees, commissioners, staff and administrative factions of the hospital and clinic. “We want to find someone (an administrator) who has the specific skills set to fulfill the needs of the hospital. There’s a lot to be done.”

Ali-Dinar said the process would likely take two months, but a temporary administrator will fill in until a replacement is found adding the temporary CEO would be present at the facility two days a week.

The commissioners also face replacing two hospital board members after Phil Johnson and Reuben Schleifer ended their respective appointments. “Phil’s term ended,” commission president Dave Bruning said, “and Reuben resigned.” Schleifer, who has served on the board for 19 years, jovially said he just turned 92 years old and it was time for him to move in a different, perhaps slower direction.

Commissioner Dean Krueger asked Ali-Dinar what strengths should be noted when looking for someone to fill the trustee positions. She said President Obama’s Health Care Reform is currently pushing hospitals in a new direction and suggested someone who is very much up on current events. “Someone who is engaged in the local community, someone who listens and communicates,” she said.

The commission also moved to set term limits for trustees. Appointees, serving six year terms, will serve no more than two consecutive terms. The decision takes effect immediately.

The commission asked Schleifer to maintain his position until they found a replacement to which he agreed, but Johnson has vacated his seat. Chris Roth is currently serving as president of the board following Johnson’s retreat.

Johnson, before he resigned his position, was included in the vote to dismiss Beck, a vote that was not unanimous. Johnson and Schleifer voted against the measure to dismiss her, while Roth, Harriet Easton and Nancy Hofts voted for the dismissal.

According to minutes from the Feb. 20 meeting, a motion was made by Roth and seconded by Easton that “St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center shall be notified that the Administrator of Thayer County Health Services shall be replaced in accordance with Section 6.0 of the Administrative Services agreement effective July 1, 2012, by and between St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center and Thayer County Health Services.” Johnson, who was not present at the meeting, stated in an email to Roth that was presented at the meeting, “As it is difficult for me to participate in actions taken, if a proxy vote is possible, please cast my vote for me as not in favor of removing our CEO…” Johnson’s vote was accepted by the board and cast as such.

On Feb. 21, Roth communicated to TCHS staff through an email that “the Board of Trustees has met several times over the past several months to discuss the future direction of Thayer County Health Services.” He added that the Board sought input from personnel during the process and contracted with an outside independent person “to help us understand better what the issues were that were confronting TCHS.” He noted that “one thing came through loud and clear…we have a great facility and tremendous staff. This is something you should all be very proud of.”

He then stated that the board voted “in the best interest of TCHS to move in a different direction” in reference to relieving the CEO of her duties.

“This decision was not made lightly and there was much thought and deliberation,” he said in the communique.

The Board of Trustees met  again Wednesday night, Feb. 27, for regular business; Ali-Dinar was present to discuss establishment of a strategic plan as they attempt to find a new administrator.

The Board also renewed contracts with physicians Tim Sullivan, Scott Vonderfecht, Bryan Hubl, Todd Pankratz, and Miles Tommeraasen. They also renewed contracts with physician’s assistants Brent Madsen, Maggie Johnson and Kristen Syde, and nurse practitioners Kay Elting and Dale Gibson.

Dr. Aaron Lanik’s contract was not renewed as he ended his employment with TCHS earlier this year.

Annual renewal of medical staff contracts is a routine agenda item.

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