TMH officials discuss CEO finalist James “Chris” Christian Smolik

Return visit could happen during National Hospital Week

Quotable...

“One of the things he said to me was he believes patient satisfaction comes from employee satisfaction. You could tell he really believes everyone can make a positive contribution to the hospital. I think Chris really enjoys people, from the top down to the bottom.”

Don Cook, chairman of The Memorial Hospital in Craig Board of Trustees, about CEO candidate finalist Chris Smolik.

— The top candidate for The Memorial Hospital's chief executive officer position is a leader who understands the coming changes to nationwide health care, values employee and patient satisfaction, and will hold the hospital accountable to the community, officials said Friday.

The TMH Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday night to extend James “Chris” Christian Smolik an invitation to return to Craig for a second round of interviews, bringing the TMH community one step closer to completing what Board Chairman Don Cook called an arduous CEO search.

TMH officials began the search for a new chief executive in January following the resignation of former CEO George Rohrich. The first order of business was to identify the hiring process.

Unlike past candidate searches — and against the recommendation of TMH’s management company, Quorum Health Resources — the TMH Board was steadfast in its desire to include as many hospital stakeholders and community members as possible in the interview process, Cook said.

Quorum first had to weed out five viable candidates out of a pool of 37 applicants.

Someone who would be familiar with impending and sweeping changes to the country’s health care system was top priority for interim CEO Joyce Hein.

We told management “we were looking for someone to move TMH forward, to educate the public about soon coming changes to the health care system and to help the community navigate through those changes,” Hein said.

Though Quorum provided TMH Board members with five options, they invited only four candidates to Craig for preliminary interviews.

The Board learned Thursday night its hospital stakeholders agreed on Smolik being a clear standout.

Chief among Smolik’s long list of strengths was his grass-roots management style, Cook said. Though Smolik routinely preached a philosophy of patient-first health care, he is known to routinely “don the scrubs” and work alongside staff members.

“One of the things he said to me was he believes patient satisfaction comes from employee satisfaction,” Cook said. “You could tell he really believes everyone can make a positive contribution to the hospital. I think Chris really enjoys people, from the top down to the bottom.”

But Hein said she doesn’t think Smolik’s natural likeability means he’s going to be a complacent boss.

“We (hospital administration and the Board) want a tough boss, and I think the whole staff wants a tough boss,” Hein said. “We want someone who is going to be accountable to the community, and hold all of us accountable to them, too.”

Hein is hoping to coordinate Smolik’s return visit during the week of May 13, National Hospital Week.

“We have a myriad of activities planned that week for both the staff and for the community,” Hein said. “We think it will be a great opportunity for Chris and his wife to engage the community in a more informal setting.”

Smolik was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com

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