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Ten days into job, Schramm finds himself one busy CEO

WILLMAR -- Rice Memorial Hospital's new chief executive has been spending his first 10 days on the job meeting people and getting to know the faces and the issues at the city-owned hospital.

Michael Schramm had his first official meeting Wednesday with the hospital board of directors.

"I'm very glad to be here," he told the board.

During the short meeting, which lasted less than 90 minutes, he reviewed state budget issues with the board, heard a presentation on the hospital's 2008 environmental safety report, and described for board members what he's been doing since arriving in the executive office June 1.

"It's certainly been busy," Schramm said. "I'm learning lots and getting lots of good information."

Schramm, the former chief executive of Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, was hired in March after a national search.

His first day in Willmar last Monday was spent touring the Rice organization.

The organization consists of the hospital, the Rice Care Center, Rice Home Medical and the Rice Rehabilitation Center, as well as the Lakeland Health Center, which is jointly owned by Rice and the owners of Family Practice Medical Center.

He also has been having get-acquainted meetings with hospital managers and the executive team.

"I think first and foremost it's good to sit down face to face with people. That's the best way to learn what's going on with the organization," he said Wednesday.

He hasn't had a chance yet to visit with all the department heads "but we're getting close," he said.

Schramm said he has met with the administrators at the two local medical clinics, Family Practice Medical Center and Affiliated Community Medical Centers, and wants to meet individual physicians as well.

And at the end of his first week last week, he also held a meet-and-greet session with hospital employees.

The past few years have been both financially and emotionally challenging for Rice, but Schramm said he was encouraged to see "smiling and happy faces" among the staff.

"I think that's a real testament to the staff we have here at Rice," he said.

In upcoming weeks, Schramm plans to begin focusing on what he sees as some of the top priorities for the organization.

Rice's strategic plan will undergo a review, he said. "Strategic kinds of issues are going to be front and center."

Developing and maintaining relationships with the two medical clinics will be important too, as will relationships with other local providers, the hospitals in the region, city officials and the community, Schramm said.

He also lists Rice's financial health as one of the priorities. Although the hospital earned a profit in 2007 and 2008, it came at the cost of layoffs and the elimination last year of two outpatient programs. Rice also is struggling this year to remain in the black.

"Moving forward, being financially strong, is going to be an important issue," Schramm said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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