Change is Afoot for the Year of 2020

Feb 07, 2020

As I write this, I pause and ask myself what the year 2020 will bring.

By now everyone knows that I will be retiring in June, and that Ms. Colleen Heeter will assume the CEO role upon my departure. Colleen will do a great job, of that I am very confident. I will work over the next several months to do all that I can to help her and the organization have a seamless transition, and continued success. But I must admit, I do not leave without some reservations.

I have worked in healthcare since I was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1980. After 40 years of being in healthcare, I have seen hospitals from top to bottom, literally. Some of you know that my first job in a hospital was as a housekeeper at Doctors Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. The economy was in a steep recession, and our first child, Hanna, was on the way, so I was absolutely thrilled to have that job. It provided me with a steady pay check and health insurance. It also introduced me to the world of hospitals.

As a housekeeper, I cleaned the Operating Rooms, made patient beds, mopped floors, and tidied up the business office. My favorite job, however, was cleaning the kitchen late at night because we had permission to eat the leftover pie. After a month of that my wife told me that I was gaining weight, so that put a stop to the late night indulgences. Looking back, that was the best job I could have had in a hospital because it provided me with perspective. Had I just gone to college and then entered the healthcare setting somewhere higher up in the organizational chart, I would not have experienced how dirty a hospital gets after just a single day of use. I learned that I was an integral part of the organization because if I and my housekeeping colleagues were not there, for say a week or two, the place would be shut down by the health department. For the hospital to function properly, I had to come to work every day and do my job well. I gained the most important perspective I could have: every person in the organization matters.

Some things will undoubtedly change under Ms. Heeter’s leadership. She is a nurse by training, and that provides her with a different perspective than mine. In many ways, she has experience and skills that I do not. I recognized this in her very early in her role as Interim Director of the Powder River Surgery Center. I quickly realized she was a talented leader. After I promoted her to Chief Operating Officer, I saw even more how hard she worked, how the hospital staff and medical staff respected her, and what an adept problem solver she was. I realized then, as the Board wisely came to recognize, that now is the time for a woman and a nurse to lead CCH.

So somethings may change but one thing will not. The mission of our organization to provide a lifetime of care to our community with dedication, skill and compassion. I believe in that mission, and Ms. Heeter believes in that mission. CCH is a team of providers, staff members, and volunteers, including the Board of Trustees, who are dedicated to providing the best care possible to our community.

So what do we look back on and what do we look forward to? In 2019 we saw the Maternal Child Unit open on the newly remodeled second floor of the hospital, and moms, dads, and babies are loving it. We saw some great new leaders come into the organization. In addition to Ms. Heeter, Misty Robertson joined us as the new Chief Nursing Officer, and Mary Lou Tate came on board as the new Chief Financial Officer.

We graduated the first nine participants in our Leaders in Training for Excellence, or LITE program. We recruited many new providers to our community and organization, and feel blessed to have them here. We continued our Baldrige journey by achieving yet another level in the award process: the Timberline Award. Dustin Martinson also joined our Board of Trustees, and will no doubt be a great addition.

Finally in 2019, I must mention the most traumatic event in our organization’s history, and I dare say in my career. On September 20, our organization’s information systems, all of them, were taken off line for over two weeks. I was at Ft. Benning, Georgia at the time celebrating my son’s graduation from U.S. Army infantry school. The celebration was short-lived as I received a text that morning from Ms. Heeter that said, “Our network is down and it appears to be ransomware.”

I later learned that FBI, Homeland Security, the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation, and other agencies had been notified and called in to help. What was a terrible assault on our organization by a foreign threat actor was also a catalyst to bring out the best in our workforce. As I returned, I saw a command center in the hospital boardroom where my leadership team, as well as many others, were working to solve the issues and maintain operations to the best of our ability. As I rounded through the different areas of our organization over the following days and weeks, I saw committed, upbeat people taking care of patients and residents, and making the very best of a bad situation. As I later stated, this attack had revealed the true character of our employees and medical staff. Dedication, skill, and compassion never stopped flowing through the veins of our organization.

We now look forward to 2020. With a renewed sense of our commitment to Campbell County, Wyoming and the surrounding areas, we will continue to move forward with our strategic plan. That plan includes workforce development, improving the continuum of care, finding new ways to deploy telemedicine, making way for more clinic space in the future, recruitment of key providers, improving our information systems, and improving our revenue cycle. It is a tall order, but we will accomplish much this coming year. The most important work we will do in 2020, however, is the same work we did last year and the year before that: Providing highly skilled and wonderfully compassionate care for all those who cross the various thresholds of our organization.

~ Andy Fitzgerald, CEO

2019 by the numbers

Categories: CEO Blog Post