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Rice Memorial Hospital board sets its deadline for interim CEO applications

WILLMAR -- Members of Rice Memorial Hospital's executive team who want to be considered for the position of interim chief executive officer have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to apply.

Whoever is selected will lead the city-owned hospital over the next several months, until a new, permanent chief executive is hired.

The hospital's top position is opening at the end of September with the departure of Lorry Massa, who has been the CEO at Rice since 1994. Massa is leaving to become the executive director of the Minnesota Hospital Association.

Wayne Larson, chairman of the hospital board, said an interim chief executive will be in place for at least six months and possibly as long as 18 months.

"We're not rushing to fill the position. We feel we have qualified people in house," he said.

Larson said he anticipates that "at least two" of the current executive team will likely apply for the interim position.

Members of the executive team are Teri Beyer, chief quality officer; Bill Fenske, chief financial officer; Dale Hustedt, associate administrator for facility and human resources; Dr. George Gordon, chief medical officer; and Maureen Ideker, chief nursing officer.

Hospital board members decided last month to seek an interim CEO from within the Rice organization, rather than bring in someone from the outside.

The board is looking for continuity, Larson said this week.

He said one of the questions that interim candidates will be asked is how they plan to facilitate progress on some of the hospital's current strategic initiatives, such as the development of a new Rice Care Center and senior housing campus.

Candidates also will be asked to address how they'll keep the hospital on track with its strategic and financial goals.

Interviews will be conducted the week of Sept. 15.

Larson said the board hopes to announce its selection on Sept. 24, two days before Massa's final day with Rice.

One of the interim chief executive's first challenges will be to develop a hospital budget for 2009.

Rice's financial performance for the rest of the year also will be a priority. Two weeks ago the hospital announced it was laying off 13 people and discontinuing two outpatient programs -- the Rice Diabetes and Nutrition Center and the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic -- to head off financial losses.

At the same time as an interim chief executive is being selected, the hospital board also will be receiving proposals from executive search firms on the search for a new permanent chief executive.

The board hopes to have a consultant hired by the end of September.