Ryan Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Peninsula Hospital, said there was one moment above all the others that stands out to him during the time he served at the hospital.
That time — a period he is most proud of — unfortunately came after a shocking and disturbing incident.
Smith said it was inspiring to watch how the community joined together after the November 2008 hospital shootings that left one hospital director dead, one critically wounded and the shooter — a hospital worker fired a day earlier — also dead.
He continues to be proud and grateful of the staff he worked along side of that kept their composure through possibly the most volatile time in the hospital’s history.
“This was a community that rallied around their hospital,” he said Tuesday in his office. “The employees rallied around their hospital and a lot of the success that we have had as a hospital has taken place since the shootings occurred. That’s something that could really send an organization spiraling.
“Instead of doing that, this community came to the rescue of this hospital and have really shown us a tremendous amount of support after that tragic incident.”
Smith, who has served as the hospital’s CEO for about five and a half years, announced Monday he will leave his post in mid-November for a job as the Chief Executive Officer at the Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas, Wyo.
The Central Peninsula General Hospital, Inc. board is expected to announce an interim CEO in the next few weeks and a search for Smith’s replacement has begun.
The move wasn’t so much about taking a step up the ladder — the Memorial Hospital is a critical access hospital with 25 beds and CPH has 50. Rather Smith’s decision to leave was based on a number of factors, he said.
“My criteria for job selection isn’t necessarily to get to a bigger hospital or to a system hospital, but to a hospital where I feel I can make a difference and I think I’ve been able to do that here along with a lot of others’ help,” he said.
Smith also mentioned being closer to family in Utah and his son starting medical school in Kentucky as another reason for taking the Wyoming position.
The 42-year-old Smith came to the hospital as the chief financial officer in 2006, and was then promoted to CEO shortly thereafter.
He also previously worked at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage and South Peninsula Hospital in Homer.
With no family history in the medical field, Smith said he fell into the industry naturally enough.
“I’ve basically only worked in hospitals,” he said. “I started working in hospitals as an environmental services employee back when I was in high school and I just kind of progressed up to a patient file clerk, and then an accounting clerk, and a staff accountant … and then a CFO and now CEO. It’s pretty much the only world I know.”
However, that world consists of “tremendously rewarding work,” he said.
“We are about servicing the community and serving patients,” he said. “It can be incredibly rewarding when patients have good experiences in our hospitals.”
The duties at his new position, he said, will be similar to those at that at CPH.
CPGH, Inc. board president Lore Weimer praised Smith’s tenure at the hospital in a news release.
“With Ryan’s leadership as an agent of change and his commitment to excellence, CPH has experienced spectacular growth over the last five years,” Weimer said in the release. “Our quality scores have skyrocketed to become the best in the state, patient and employee satisfaction scores are at a new high, and access to primary care has greatly improved for the members of our community.
“Ryan also worked diligently to raise community awareness about the future of health care delivery and the constraints imposed by our current lease and operating agreement that could prevent CPH remaining strong in the future.”
Part of Smith’s decision to leave his position included recent discussions concerning the hospital’s ownership and governance, he said. At the heart of that topic is a past proposal for a whole hospital joint venture and language in the hospital’s lease and operating agreement.
Smith said the issue — which was recently reopened through negotiations between Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor David Carey and the CPGH Inc., board — was also one of several criteria he considered when looking at the Wyoming position.
“I’d be lying if I said that the current ownership and governance structure wasn’t something that I want to consider in where I want to work because it has the ability to influence what you are going to be able to accomplish,” he said. “But, it wasn’t like I was reacting to the fact that the (Kenai Peninsula Borough) assembly didn’t introduce the Board of Directors’ recommendation to do a whole hospital joint venture. That’s not the case at all.”
Smith said he thinks both sides of the issue — borough and the CPGH, Inc. board — realize there are things that need to change to make the hospital a “more agile organization that would be poised to really respond to the changes that are going to come with health care reform.”
“I really do want to make sure this organization succeeds moving forward,” he said. “It’s a great hospital.”
Smith had a bit of advice for whomever takes over the job he said was both challenging and rewarding.
“I think it’s reaching out to the community and reaching out to the boards and assembly members,” he said. “There’s a lot of constituents to satisfy here, but everyone really wants what’s best for this organization — it’s a huge economic engine in this area and everyone wants it to succeed. That’s the most important piece of advice that I would have for them is to reach out to those constituency groups and do your best to manage.”