It’s a good sign for the community that the Aspen Valley Hospital board of directors has started the negotiating process to bring in a new CEO.
The board’s top choice is Dan Bonk, who runs Aurora Medical Center in Summit, Wis. From most appearances, Bonk strikes us as a straight shooter with a sense of humor, boasting a work history that includes roles as president of the St. Francis and St. Joseph hospitals in Milwaukee as well as hospital positions in Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Bonk certainly said the right things during his public interview, held Sept. 30, with the Aspen Valley Hospital board. The former collegiate track star said he advocates promoting health as a remedy for rising health costs, trusting and relying on his staff members to do their jobs without having to micromanage them, and being transparent “almost to a fault.”
If Bonk accepts the board’s offer to run the Aspen hospital, he’ll be entering a community where there are plenty of critics of the institution, including those who claim that the hospital was disingenuous about a recent expansion plan that is out of step with what Aspen wants.
Others point to its latest personnel flap, which happened earlier this year when the board voted to uphold the ouster of one of the community’s trusted surgeons because he and his supervisor, the hospital’s contracted director of surgery, did not see eye to eye.
Sure, the hospital has its supporters, as well, and there are countless stories from patients who say its care comes second to none. We don’t doubt that the lion’s share of workers in the building — from top to bottom — are highly skilled, hardworking, dedicated and professional.
Yet there’s no mistaking that this can be a tough environment to run a public health care facility. With the hospital’s third and fourth expansion phases already approved by the city (and on the horizon), there will be even more public scrutiny over construction and the promises that the hospital made to its residential neighbors in exchange for that approval.
There also is the hospital’s vow that it will remain locally focused without trying to compete with Valley View Hospital, in Glenwood Springs, by implementing a vast array of new services that the immediate Aspen area doesn’t really need.
We believe Bonk may have the chops to deal with these future issues. We also will give Bonk the benefit of the doubt that he is transparent. He’ll certainly get the chance to prove that in the future.
Now all he has to do is accept the job. Let’s hope that he does and that his tenure is successful — but let’s also hope that the hospital doesn’t have to go overboard in terms of salary and benefits in its quest to land him.