Ressler resigns as CEO at Aspen Valley Hospital |

Ressler resigns as CEO at Aspen Valley Hospital

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Dave Ressler

ASPEN – Dave Ressler has resigned as CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital and will take an administrative post with Tucson Medical Center in Arizona.

The hospital board of directors formally accepted his resignation Tuesday evening; staffers were told of his pending departure Wednesday morning. There were some tears, according to Ginny Dyche, director of community relations.

“It was a very hard decision,” said Ressler, who has been at the helm of Aspen’s hospital for almost nine years.

Ressler said he explained to local hospital employees that he had not been looking for a new assignment but that discussions with the 600-bed Tucson hospital, where he had worked previously, opened the door to “a really interesting opportunity for me.” He will be vice president and chief strategy officer in Tucson.

The decision to leave has nothing to do with the ongoing review by the City Council of controversial plans for further expansion of Aspen Valley Hospital, Ressler stressed. In fact, Ressler said he timed his resignation in order to, he hopes, complete the approval process with the city and allow his children, ages 16 and 14, to finish the school year here.

Ressler, 49, said he will remain at the Aspen hospital full time through May and then split his time between Aspen and Tucson in June.

During Ressler’s tenure in Aspen, the hospital has seen voters reauthorize its mill levy and garnered voter approval of a $50 million bond issue in 2010 to help fund the expansion project that is now under way. The hospital also has received national awards for patient satisfaction and operating performance, established services in the midvalley, formed a philanthropic organization dedicated to the hospital and helped form the new nonprofit Valley Health Alliance – an organization involving five major local employers. Its goal is lowering health care costs, improving employee health and enhancing the quality of care with a model that can be expanded to the greater community.

The alliance parallels the work of an accountable-care organization in Tucson and led to the discussions between Ressler and Tucson that culminated in the job opportunity, Ressler said.

Ressler has strong ties to the Tucson area; his family moved to Arizona while he was in high school, and he received an undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona. His parents still live there.

Nonetheless, he said Wednesday that he will miss the sense of family at Aspen Valley Hospital.

“It’s just a very good group of people, from the board to the staff to the physicians to my executive team,” he said. “It’s been the best experience I’ve ever had, and I will miss it.”

Ressler was hired at Aspen Valley Hospital in mid-2004 after a national search, leaving a post as president and CEO of Sierra Vista Medical Center, a 90-bed hospital in Sierra Vista, Ariz. He took the helm of Aspen’s hospital at a time of financial crisis. A year earlier, the Aspen hospital had reported losses of about $12 million, according to a news report at the time, and drastic staff reductions started at the top. Both the former CEO and chief financial officer were ousted in the overhaul.

While Ressler took over as CEO, Terry Collins was hired as the new financial officer at Aspen Valley Hospital, a post he continues to hold.

Seeking a new CEO this time will take place under far different circumstances, said John Sarpa, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors – a post he also held during the tumultuous times of a decade ago.

“Last time, the hospital was still in dire straits. It was a very low ebb,” recalled Sarpa, who credited Ressler and Collins with methodically turning around the hospital’s fortunes.

“Today, of course, is quite different,” Sarpa said. “We have a very strong financial position, and the hospital has come a long way in what it’s doing now and how it’s doing it.

“Dave leaves Aspen in a very healthy condition. No. 2, he leaves a very strong team behind. There is nothing that’s a measure of leadership like what it looks like after you leave.”

Dr. Barry Mink, a hospital director and member of the medical staff for 39 years before his recent retirement, called Ressler’s resignation a disappointment and a shock. Mink, like Sarpa, was on the board when Ressler was recruited to head up Aspen Valley Hospital.

“Dave Ressler is one of the best if not the best administrator the hospital has had in 39 years,” Mink said.

Along with top-notch administrative skills, Ressler is a personable, level-headed CEO who is easy to communicate with – “a real pro,” Mink said.

The board has only begun to discuss an interim appointment to the CEO’s post while it launches a national search for Ressler’s successor, Sarpa said. Retired heart surgeon Dr. Bob Karp filled in as interim CEO before Ressler’s hiring.

The hospital board is considering several executive-search firms to assist in finding Ressler’s replacement, including Witt/Kieffer, the Chicago-area firm that helped Aspen Valley Hospital land both Ressler and Collins, Sarpa said. The search process is expected to take at least six months.

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