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Interim CEO joins hospital

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Mary Stroka, NLJ Reporter

Board continues search for hospital leaders

Changes in leadership are underway at Weston County Health Services, and Catherine Harshbarger officially stepped in as the interim CEO at the hospital on June 24, according to a text sent by board Treasurer Kari Drost to the News Letter Journal that same day.

At its June 20 meeting, after holding an executive session, the board unanimously approved extending CEO Randy Lindauer’s employment through June 25, but his role will only involve training, not taking “substantive action or approval.” Originally, his contract as CEO ended at the end of business hours on June 21. Lindauer, as the News Letter Journal previously reported, announced at a special board meeting on May 23 that he was resigning.

The board also unanimously approved allowing board Chair Ann Slagle to negotiate a contract with Harshbarger on terms that the board discussed in executive session.

Slagle said earlier in the June 20 meeting that the board had spoken with Harshbarger about the position and had checked her references.

According to Harshbarger’s LinkedIn profile, her last health care leadership position was at Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke, Colorado, where she served as president and CEO from May 2020 to December 2022. She was the hospital’s interim CEO and chief clinical officer from May 2019 to May 2020.

The board also approved extending the contract of interim Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Paul for up to 50 working days, starting June 26.

The board continues to search for a permanent CEO and CHRO.

At its June 13 meeting, the board formed a search committee to review proposals from executive search firms H&H Leadership Solutions, WittKieffer and Strategic Impact Group.

Slagle, trustee Nathan Ballard and trustee Karine Wright West are the board members on the committee.

Slagle, who also wants to have two hospital staff members on the committee, announced at the June 20 meeting that Radiology Manager Keisha Brueggeman has joined the committee. The board is still hoping for one more hospital staff representative to participate.

In addition to guiding the rest of the board in selecting the interim CEO, as they have done, the committee’s duties are also to review the proposals from the firms and to assess candidates for the positions of interim CEO, permanent CEO, and permanent chief of human resources. The committee will subsequently make recommendations to the board, and that body will ultimately make the choices.

“We’re doing our best to improve our process on how we select executive-level talent,” Ballard said.

He said he believes that he spent five or six hours in phone calls talking with Harshbarger’s references, and other committee members checked references too.

“I think we probably spent 18 to 20 hours really getting to know who Cathy is and other people’s experiences with her, and we believe that we’ve got a very consistent report from everybody that we spoke to,” Ballard said.

The board wants to continue figuring out how to improve its search for its next permanent CEO, according to Ballard. He noted that the average tenure for a CEO is three to five years.

“This won’t be a ‘one and done’ for us, and so my goal is to try to have the best process in place for how we can make sure we thoroughly check backgrounds and get the best candidates in front of us to choose from,” he said.

In another change, WCHS accounts payable/payroll specialist Jenifer Stulken resigned, board Treasurer Kari Drost said at the June 20 meeting. Before Stulken left the hospital, staff member Alicia Grimm shadowed her so she could conduct payroll.

Ballard, who serves with Drost and trustee Ted Ertman on the finance committee, worked with Stulken in cash analysis.

Ballard said at the meeting that he worked with Stulken to make the analysis show the total change in the hospital’s cash position per month. Previously, a few accounts had been left out. He wants to be able to provide the board with a beginning bank balance, an ending bank balance and activities that transpired in between.

“We’re working on ways that we can give the board a better financial picture of where we really stand,” Drost said.


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