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Candidates to lead Bartlett meet the public

Hospital's board set to meet Monday to make a decision on new CEO

Posted: June 17, 2012 - 12:11am
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Chris Harff, a candidate for CEO of Bartlett Regional Hospital.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Chris Harff, a candidate for CEO of Bartlett Regional Hospital.

After a long day of interviews, exercises and presentations through which Bartlett Regional Hospital’s board of directors assessed the two remaining candidates for the position of chief executive officer, members of the public finally got to mingle with the finalists at a reception Friday evening.

About 25 physicians, city officials and interested citizens showed up to speak with Elizabeth Woodyard, CEO of Petersburg Medical Center in Petersburg, and Christine Harff, CEO of Sanford Medical Center in Thief River Falls, Minn., over plates of bruschetta, tarts and other hors d’oeuvres in the hospital’s Bob F. Valliant Center.

“It’s been a good experience,” Woodyard said of Friday’s activities. “The hospital is the hospital for Juneau, so the people in Juneau care. … That is really important to the people of Juneau, to continue to have a very good hospital.”

The reception capped a day of assessments to determine how Woodyard and Harff responded to certain scenarios that they would potentially confront as the hospital’s CEO.

Norma Adams, Bartlett’s human resources director, said turnout during the day “exceeded our expectations.” The scenario testing and presentations by each candidate were open to the public, and Adams said a few attendees stayed for most of the day.

“I’ve never been part of such a public process, or interactive process, but it’s been kind of fun,” said Harff. “One thing I liked about the process (was that) there were questions from the community in there already.”

Keeping the process open to the public and allowing interested citizens and hospital employees to meet with the candidates at the reception was important to ensuring Bartlett’s role as a community hospital is upheld, said Bob Storer, president of Bartlett’s board of directors.

“It’s a chance for the candidates to get to know members of the community” and vice versa, Storer said of the reception.

“We don’t want somebody that’s not going out into the community, that doesn’t understand the issues of our community,” Storer added.

Kristen Bomengen, head of the hospital’s transition committee, echoed Storer’s sentiments.

“We will hope to get public input on … whether the public believes [the candidates] will be able to address public concerns,” said Bomengen. “We’re a community hospital, and we want our community to understand what we do and why we would hire a certain person.”

Gene Smith, a Juneau resident who served for nine years on Bartlett’s board of directors in the 1970s and 1980s, said the public process Bartlett is using this year to select a new CEO differs greatly from the process as he knew it during his time on the board.

“I think it’s good for the public to be aware of the process,” Smith said. Though he said he was unable to compare the two candidates directly, having only seen Woodyard’s presentation and spoken with her, he was impressed with the Petersburg resident’s experience in Alaska — a contrast with Harff, who has not previously worked in the state.

The hospital’s board of directors is set to meet late Monday afternoon to decide whether Woodyard or Harff will become its next permanent CEO, Storer said.

The two women are vying to succeed Shawn Morrow, whose January departure was compelled by the switchover from the CEO and chief financial officer being employees of management firm Quorum Health Resources to being city employees. John Vowell has been serving as interim CEO since Morrow’s tenure expired.

Bartlett originally selected three finalists for consideration, but William Comer, senior vice president of operations at Neuterra Healthcare’s Hospital Division in Kansas City, Kan., unexpectedly dropped out of contention Thursday. Comer was not present at Friday’s event.

• Contact reported Mark D. Miller at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com or at 523-2279.

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