CEO a perfect fit for hospital? | AspenTimes.com
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CEO a perfect fit for hospital?

Eben Harrell

A portrait is emerging of newly appointed Aspen Valley Hospital CEO David Ressler as a young, charismatic leader who was respected by the community he served.Yesterday, he spoke publicly for the first time about his preliminary thoughts for improvements at AVH. Ressler, who will begin work in Aspen in September, has spent the past four years as CEO of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, a hospital in southeastern Arizona that serves some 60,000. Sources within the Arizona hospital credit Ressler with far-reaching changes to the culture at Sierra Vista, a clear plan for the future and an ability to boost staff morale.”He was a leader in changing the culture to a team environment,” said Marie Wurth, Sierra Vista’s vice president of human resources. “The respect and admiration that he’s given by internal folks and the community speaks to that. If you are looking for dirt on David, you won’t find any.”One Sierra Vista source described Ressler, 40, as “young, dynamic, a great public speaker and easy to get along with.” The Sierra Vista Herald reported yesterday that board members and former board members alike expressed regret in losing Ressler.”For the hospital community and the community at large, it’s sad to see David go,” board member Ron Wagner told The Herald.Thoughts on Aspen Ressler said yesterday he has no specific plans yet for AVH, but would “come in and respond to the situation as I find it.” His track record at Sierra Vista, however, offers hints as to what Ressler may have in mind for AVH. Struggling to cope with decreasing revenue and an exploding local population, Sierra Vista hired Ressler as CEO in 2000 and asked him to formulate a strategic plan for the hospital.Completed within a year of Ressler’s appointment, the plan included the construction of a new hospital, developing affiliations with large metropolitan hospitals in Tucson and the expansion of elective services to bring in more revenue. All the steps are goals recently set out by the Aspen Valley Hospital board. A new hospital in Aspen, an affiliation with a large orthopedic center in New York City, and the expansion of elective services such as plastic surgery were mentioned as recently as last week as priorities by AVH officials.While he refused to comment on specifics, Ressler did offer preliminary thoughts on some of the issues facing AVH.• On a new hospital for Aspen: “I could not really get a feel for that [during visits here]. At Sierra Vista we are building a replacement facility on a new campus but there’s a process of evaluation that is undertaken before a decision like that is made.”• On an affiliation with the orthopedic Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York: “I don’t know whether [HSS] is the right move, but the thought process for something like that makes a lot sense. You ultimately want to develop service lines that … develop their own reputation and attract patients to that environment.”• On AVH expansion in the midvalley (in order to avoid losing patients to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs): “I think it’s important for the hospital to define what its primary and secondary catchment areas are and where the hospital fits in the competitive environment. Obviously you want to catch the largest market you can. That growth contributes to improvements for everybody.”• On working with the AVH board: “We have a private board of 12 members [at Sierra Vista]. The relationship between a CEO and the board is of the utmost importance in being able to provide cohesive and effective leadership. One of the things I had to assess in the hiring process was the Aspen board and whether I would be able to have that sort of relationship with them.”• On whether he will bring his management team from Sierra Vista to Aspen: “I am currently looking for a new [chief financial officer]. I have no candidates in mind.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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