Local News

Sitka hospital CEO announces retirement

Hospital CEO Hugh Hallgren will retire in June. (Sitka Community Hospital photo)

Hospital CEO Hugh Hallgren will retire in June. (Sitka Community Hospital photo)

Sitka Community Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, Hugh Hallgren, will retire in June after more than four years of service in Sitka. The hospital’s Board of Directors announced Hallgren’s retirement on Monday (12-23-13).

In a news release, Board Chair Celeste Tydingco said, “Hugh’s leadership and vision for our hospital have been critical to the success we have enjoyed during his tenure.”

Hallgren can trace his healthcare career all the way back to 1973, when he decided against, what he says was the popular option at the time, selling soap for Proctor and Gamble.

“Well I started off getting a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago,” said Hallgren. “And I felt at the time, being of that age group – the hippy age group, that my duty was to try to improve other people’s lives.”

Over four years ago, when Sitka needed a hospital CEO, Hallgren was looking for a new job. Hallgren says that the hard working, cooperative staff shared his values – namely, the patient should always come first. So, accepting the CEO position at SCH was a no-brainer.

Once Hallgren arrived, and got the chance to look under the hood, reality set in. He says, at the time, the hospital was in trouble. It was losing almost two million dollars a year. Hallgren says there was insufficient medical staff to efficiently address Sitkans’ needs. He set to work expanding the surgical service, reopening OB services, and recruiting physicians.

“We got general surgery back with Doctor Wein, thank goodness. We restarted obstetrics. You lose your surgeon it’s hard to do OB because you may need to do a cesarean section here and there,” said Hallgren.

Over the course of his tenure Hallgren recruited 14 physicians. About half are on the island full time and work at the Mountainside Family Healthcare clinic. The rest provide specialty care as needed – services like reconstructive plastic surgery, cardiology, and dermatology.

Hallgren says that the strategy has always been to find out what Sitkans need, and try to provide it on the island. He reports a 118% growth in patient visits since 2010.

Hallgren said, “what we see is the community responding to our ability to meet their health needs. So now, if you want to go to Seattle or anchorage to go shopping you can just go shopping you don’t need to add a physician’s visit to it.”

Rapid growth is the reason why SCH is working on building a second primary care clinic on the first floor of the hospital. The Board will continue efforts to raise the remaining funds required to open the new clinic.

Hallgren’s next destination is Yuma, Arizona, where his wife, Tanya, has taken a job treating US Marines with stress related mental health issues. Hallgren says that he is ready to pass off the baton: “It’s always good to leave before you’re asked to go. The best time to leave a party is when it’s going full blast.”

The SCH board will work with a hospital management advisory firm, Quorum Health Resources, to conduct a national search for a new CEO.

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