The right move

Despite controversy, hospital administrator pleased with Craig

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What: Welcome reception for George Rohrich, administrator at The Memorial HospitalWhen: 2 to 3:30 p.m. todayWhere: Cafeteria at TMH, 785 Russell St.The public is invited to attend.

For nearly three decades, George Rohrich's career in the "dynamic and exciting" field of health care management has ushered him across hospitals and clinics worldwide. Now, he's looking for a permanent address in Craig.

"We've been kind of mobile," said Rohrich, who begins his tenure today as the administrator of The Memorial Hospital.

He and his wife, Valerie, moved from Worland, Wyo., to Craig in mid-February.

"The reception we've received here has really caught our attention and touched us deeply," Rohrich said. "It's really reassured us of our decision to move here."

Rohrich, 48, spent five years as the CEO of the Washakie Medical Center in Worland and four years as the administrator of the Pembina County Memorial Hospital in Cavalier, N.D.

For 15 years, he worked in medical administration for the U.S. Air Force in hospitals across the United States; while in the military, one of his stints was at a hospital in Turkey.

He said the allure of working in health care management lies with providing support to professionals who swore an oath to do noble work.

"It's being a part of a group of people that save lives," he said. Plus, there is a certain newness involved in the health care industry.

"You would say it's a high-velocity environment in that things are changing so quickly," he said.

But, not everything will be quaint as he begins work at TMH.

The soft-spoken, mild-mannered Rohrich takes over a hospital that has been besieged by controversy in recent weeks. The latest hullabaloo stems from recent news that Dr. Michael Crane, TMH chief of staff, has gone on a hunger strike until charges are filed against another doctor who allegedly assaulted him during an altercation March 3.

The hospital has also hired a Denver-based attorney to investigate claims of patient neglect and Medicare fraud.

Rohrich said he's undeterred by the clamor.

"I don't fully understand it today, but I intend to very soon," he said. "I always know there are two sides to the story."

He is optimistic that good can still come from the stormy situation.

"We need to get to the bottom of it, resolve it and quickly," he said, adding that once the problems are resolved, "everyone will be better off because of it."

As for running the day-to-day operations of the hospital, Rohrich said his focus would be on shepherding an upcoming $21 million construction project to build a 53,000-square-foot facility on the west side of Craig. Plans call for new facility to be completed in five to six years.

"It'll be one of the top priorities," Rohrich said. "Communities only get to build new hospitals once every 50 years, maybe. It's critical that we're able to look into the future and anticipate our needs."

He'll also give attention to customer service, staff development and additions "as appropriate," and improving utilization numbers. "There are always opportunities for improvement," Rohrich said. "It's like any store in town, you're always interested in improving your market share."

Rohrich met his wife in the Air Force, and they married in 1982. The couple has two children, both of whom attend college in Wyoming. Their oldest son, George, is a psychology and social services major, and Matt is studying criminal justice.

Rohrich has a bachelor's of science degree in management and human services from Park University in Missouri and associate's degrees in health care administration and pharmacy technology from the U.S. Air Force Community College.

Rohrich said he and Valerie hope to make Craig a permanent home.

"We're really impressed with the feel of the community," he said. "And the people have been just very warm and welcoming. I hope we never have to move again."

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