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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Bigelow to retire as hospital leader


The woman who took the helm of the troubled hospital she’s spent most of her career at will not renew her contract, opting instead for some time with grandchildren, she reiterated to commissioners Monday.

Debbie Bigelow had sent a letter to commissioners in December to that effect, encouraging them to get started finding a replacement soon.

Bigelow underscored that point at the Hospital District 6 Commission meeting Monday, but said she will stay on long enough for an orderly transition.

She took over as an “interim” chief executive officer at the hospital in 2014 after the resignation of J. Scott Graham, who has sued the district, saying the board left him no choice. That suit is still pending resolution, along with those filed by others in the administration who left as the board took control of a situation the public loudly decried for months at meetings.

“You’ve done so much,” commission president Jerry Kennedy said, noting that her salary was about 60 percent of what was paid to earlier CEOs, despite the fact the board had offered more.

Bigelow, a former chief financial officer, assumed leadership of a staff that was divided and demoralized, by all accounts completely changing the atmosphere at the hospital to one of openness and trust.

“It wouldn’t be so easy to leave if we didn’t have such talented staff,” Bigelow said. “They’ll carry on whether I’m here or not.”

Kennedy and Commissioner Geary Oliver will serve on a recruitment committee, possibly tapping the abilities of a recruitment effort established at the hospital for finding new healthcare providers.

That effort was started after the departure of Graham, who had resisted or ignored please by medical staff to add to their numbers, relegating the task to hired head hunters who failed to produce new doctors.

Some administrators in the industry favor hiring “mid-level” professionals instead of physicians to hold down costs.

The recruitment effort has had success, with new doctors added in the last two years and more on the way to help with answering demand, proponents of the plan say.

The recruitments, however, take some time to pay off as new providers get established in a practice and gain patients.

CMC, struggling before the change-over, has yet to have a positive year financially since.

CFO Paul Babcock said Monday he expects the hospital and its clinics to have lost $1.23 million in 2015, after all costs and revenues are known, an improvement over last year’s $6.1 million loss.

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