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Letter to the Editor

By Craig Kerfoot

February 23, 2022

As board chair, I have an obligation to do what I believe is in the best interest of the hospital and its mission to the community. I take this responsibility seriously. The hospital and the board have been through significant turmoil over the past many months. The most important issue currently facing us is to determine how we want the hospital to be led going into the future. We have three basic options going forward:

Hospital Management Company: In this option, we would contract with a company to provide the CEO and manage our hospital. We would continue to be responsible for the governance of the organization and make all decisions regarding the future of the organization, working with the management company responsible for the day-to-day operations of the hospital.

Healthcare System Affiliation: There are a variety of possible relationships with a healthcare system, ranging from a management agreement all the way to a full merger.

Hire a New CEO: As it relates to the option of hiring our own CEO, I believe that if we decide to go with this option, the CEO would need to have support from other hospitals. We are not exempt from the challenges all rural hospitals face and staying completely independent and alone seems unwise. We need access to resources, expertise, and scale that would come with a relationship with other hospitals. We currently are part of the Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium, and we will continue to participate with this group as we go forward.

Here is why I believe the board vote went the direction that it did concerning Pathways Design Group:

First and foremost, there was concern with the significant costs associated with the agreement. While the hospital is healthy financially, I believe that I and other board members felt we needed to explore less expensive options to help ensure long term fiscal security for our hospital. We owe it to the men and women who work at the hospital, clinic and long-term care facility, our patients and the taxpayers to find the most cost-effective option for leading our organization.

Second, we need to explore the marketplace for organizations with more healthcare specific experience given the complexity of healthcare institutions and our specific organizational needs.

Third, I believe we need a united board making this important decision. A split board on such an important decision does not bode well for the future. I think we need to search for a solution that would bring a unanimous decision by the board. The Pathways option did not have unanimous support. Although I respect the board members who supported Pathways, I hope they also respect those who did not. We must work together to find a solution we can all support.

To help the board come together, we have engaged Linden Consulting, a healthcare governance consultancy to support our work. They are not a competing organization to Pathways. They are not a hospital management organization, a healthcare system (or affiliated with any specific healthcare systems) or provide CEOs for hospitals. They help rural hospitals do strategic planning, governance education and short-term, interim leadership support. The two partners of Linden Consulting have over fifty years of rural hospital experience and come highly recommended by Colorado Hospital Association.

So, ultimately, I believe the decision to step back from Pathways was best for the reasons noted above. Now we can move forward to recruit an interim CEO, so we can take our time and make a good decision on what we need for long term leadership of our hospital. With the support of Linden Consulting, we will go through a thoughtful and thorough process of exploring all the options in making this important decision. Bringing in an interim CEO will allow for that leader to focus on the day-to-day operations at the hospital, clinic and long-term care facility, while the board focuses on exploring all our options for long term leadership and strategic planning. Then we focus on addressing all the other issues facing our organization and work to assure access to quality healthcare in our community for generations to come.

Craig Kerfoot, Board Chair

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