Hospital’s new CEO confronts morale problems on first day |

Hospital’s new CEO confronts morale problems on first day

Eben Harrell
David Ressler, Aspen Valley Hospital's new CEO, started work Wednesday. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Aspen Valley Hospital’s new CEO started work yesterday and his arrival was greeted with optimism by hospital staff reeling from a recent financial crisis and dangerously low morale.David Ressler said he spent the day moving into his office and meeting employees in various departments. He moved to Aspen last week from Arizona, where he was the CEO of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, a hospital serving some 60,000 people in the state’s southeastern region. Yesterday he replaced interim CEO Bob Karp. Karp had taken over for dismissed CEO Randy Middlebrook in January amid a financial crisis sparked by billing problems that eventually resulted in losses of around $12 million last year and 34 employees losing their jobs.

“I’m excited and extremely optimistic,” Ressler said.Several employees interviewed yesterday as they left the hospital said Ressler faces a stern challenge in boosting staff morale, but that he has the staff’s support. All employees spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals.”We’re cautious,” one said. “[Ressler] seems great. But he’s inheriting a lot of trouble from CEOs before him.”

“This hospital is a mess,” another said. “People are unhappy, on edge. There’s a general sense of unease around here. It’ll take some time to settle down. [Ressler] seems like a good guy, but he’s got his work ahead of him.”Employees said bitterness among staff remains about the handling of April’s layoffs. One employee cited several small cost-saving efforts implemented since that time, such as charging staff for coffee, as adding to the conflict between management and staff.Ressler said he is aware of the morale problems at AVH, but feels the staff is up to the challenge.

“We’re not going to lie to you. There are challenges,” he said. “But it’s a tough business, and from what I’ve seen today and through the interview process there are great people at this hospital. “AVH has a huge amount of potential.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is