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Paynesville Press - September 4, 2002

Hospital board selects a new CEO for PAHCS

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area Hospital District Board of Directors selected a new chief executive officer (CEO) last week for the Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS).

Current CEO Willie LaCroix – who became the hospital administrator in Paynesville in 1981 – is planning to retire this fall. The board's decision on his successor – made at their monthly meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 28 – marked the end of a nearly 18-month search for a new CEO. From two finalists, the hospital board unanimously approved hiring Steve Moburg, a native of Illinois who has worked as a health care administrator in Illinois and Wisconsin.

LaCroix announced his intention to retire in the spring of 2001, and the hospital board soon formed a CEO Search Committee to seek a replacement. One of their first decisions, recalled Doug Ruhland, the vice chairman of the hospital board and the chairman of the CEO Search Committee, was to decide that PAHCS wanted to remain independent, and not reach a management contract with a larger health care provider, in which case a new CEO would not have been needed.

Then the committee – which regularly held bi-monthly meetings – met with employees, doctors, and department heads to seek input on the type of individual and the type of qualifications the organization needed in its next CEO.

In April 2002, the committee hired a search firm to help it find the best candidate, using much of the information that was gathered by the committee, said Ruhland. Nearly 200 people applied for the job, and the search firm pared these candidates down to 44, who were interviewed by phone, then to 18, who were interviewed again by phone, and then to 10, who were interviewed personally by the search firm.

The top six candidates were interviewed by the search committee, who reduced the list to four and then to two finalists, Moburg and Myrna Erb-Gundel, the CEO at a county hospital in Iowa. Both toured the facility and met with the entire hospital board in August.

The committee unanimously ranked Moburg as its top candidate, Ruhland told the board.

"We, as a committee, feel this is the most important decision this board will make," explained Ruhland, who represents the city of Eden Valley on the hospital board. "We feel it will have lasting impact."

In addition to approving the hiring of Moburg, the hospital board authorized the search committee to negotiate a contract with him. The new contract is expected to be worth around $100,000 per year with benefits comparable to the current CEO.

The board hopes to have its new CEO on the job as soon as mid-September and for certain by early October.

Moburg holds a bachelor of the arts in business administration from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a master's degree in health administration from Georgia State University. He worked from 1983 to 1995 in his home state of Illinois, first as the administrator at the hospital and nursing home in Carthage, Ill., and then as the administrator at a municipal facility in Monmouth, Ill. In Monmouth, he oversaw a 90-bed acute-care hospital and 35-bed skilled nursing home.

Most recently, Moburg was the administrator for Boscobel Area Health Care in Boscobel, Wis., from 1995 to 2001. Boscobel Area Health Care has many of the same health care components as PAHCS with: acute care; clinic services; an 85-bed long-term-care facility; consulting specialists; surgery; and more.

Dr. Randy Nelson, chief of staff, who served on the search committee and serves on the hospital board, said that all the candidates were good but Moburg was the best fit for PAHCS. "I feel the physicians will be very happy with the choice of the committee," he said.

Last week, the hospital board also approved a separation and consulting agreement with LaCroix. "It will help with a smooth transition to the next CEO," said Don Thomes, chairman of the hospital board.

Under that agreement, LaCroix will continue to work with the new CEO and the board for 60 days once he arrives at PAHCS. Following that, LaCroix will be available for consulting – for the CEO and the hospital board – for the next year. Thomes also thanked LaCroix for his service to PAHCS over the past two decades. "This is the start of a new era," Thomes said. "We hope it's as successful as the previous era."

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