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Rice Memorial Hospital board picks new chief medical officer

WILLMAR -- One of Rice Memorial Hospital's key executive positions, that of the chief medical officer, has been filled with the selection this month of Dr. Mark Matthias.

The announcement was made Wednesday to the board of directors of the city-owned hospital.

Matthias, who's currently the chief medical officer at the Mankato Clinic, has accepted a contract and will arrive at Rice around Jan. 1, said Mike Schramm, Rice Hospital's chief executive.

"We're very pleased to have that happen," he said. "We feel very comfortable we have the right candidate coming on board."

The hospital and Affiliated Community Medical Centers also chalked up more recent success this summer with the hiring of two hospitalists to help expand the hospital medicine program they jointly operate.

Matthias replaces Dr. George Gordon, who has retired after 10 years as the chief medical officer at Rice. Gordon's last day was Wednesday.

The chief medical officer oversees clinical services at the hospital and serves as a liaison between the medical staff and the hospital's executive team and board of directors. The position also involves working in Rice's emergency room.

Matthias has experience in primary care, emergency care, administration and health care quality initiatives, said Dr. Richard Wehseler, chief of staff at Rice.

"He seems to have all of the talents and credentials we're looking for," he said.

Although Matthias won't officially take over until January, the transition will start sooner with some emergency-room scheduling, Schramm said. He'll also likely attend some sessions of a hospital-wide strategic planning initiative that was launched this month.

After months of recruitment, two new hospitalists also have signed on to help manage inpatient care. One has already begun working and the other is expected to start soon. A third hospitalist will be spending a 10- to 12-month stint in Willmar as well.

This will bring to four the number of hospitalists working at Rice. The program is a joint venture with ACMC, which employs the physicians.

"These will be very positive additions," Schramm said.

The goal is to take the hospitalist program, which began in 2007, to "the next level," he said.

There's been less success with recruiting one or more orthopedic surgeons to live and practice in Willmar. Schramm said Wednesday that there's "some potential on the horizon" but no actual prospects yet.

Hospital officials continue to see orthopedics as an urgent need, he said.

The local physician supply remains one of the hospital's biggest strategic issues. The current strategic planning process is taking a look at the physician supply and the local market for services, and is expected to result in a medical staff development plan for the hospital.

Schramm said he has been encouraged by some of the recent recruitment successes, which also include the arrival of a nephrologist at ACMC this past June.

In recent weeks Willmar has hosted several site visits with primary care physicians who are interested in the community, Schramm said.

"We continue to work on lots of fronts and the clinics have done some very good work," he 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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