Hospital chief Lafferty leaving

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

Plumas District Hospital is going to have new leadership, and how that will be structured will be announced tomorrow.

Hospital board president Bill Wickman made this announcement last Thursday, March 27: “Today the PDH Board of Directors has reached an agreement in principle with CEO Doug Lafferty for early departure as CEO.”

During an interview that afternoon Wickman said that the agreement was still being finalized and he couldn’t discuss the details.

That morning Wickman and other directors visited the hospital and its two clinics to personally tell employees of the decision.

“The reaction was mixed,” Wickman said. “Doug, like any CEO, had strong supporters, and then there are those who aren’t.”

Lafferty was hired July 18, 2011, to succeed Dick Hathaway, and faced many challenges.

Some of the major tasks included building a new hospital, improving the bottom line, overhauling a broken billing system and implementing electronic medical records.

“Has it been easy?” Wickman asked. “No.”

While electronic medical records have been implemented, the hospital is still struggling to turn a profit, and despite many changes in billing and costly write-offs, the accounts receivable days remain nearly triple the state average.

“We’ve got to take a look and ask how we can get our finances turned around,” Wickman said.

The board will announce an interim leader April 3, but Wickman said the directors are in no hurry to find a permanent replacement.

“We think we are headed in a good direction with interim leadership and we are going to develop a good plan,” he said. “We want to work as a team and work as a community.”

While the board made plans, Lafferty spent the latter part of last week cleaning out his office and tying up loose ends. His last day in the office was March 27.


Lafferty looks back

While Lafferty wasn’t quite ready to leave — there was more he wanted to accomplish — he said it was time.

“About three weeks ago I approached the board and said ‘we need to be on the same page,’” Lafferty said during an interview March 28.

While Lafferty wanted to push to get more done, he said he sensed that they “were concerned that it was a little too fast.”

Despite a parting of the ways, Lafferty said that there are no hard feelings.

“The board is a good board,” he said. “They are my friends. I value them and what they’re doing for the hospital.”

When asked about his accomplishments during his tenure at Plumas District Hospital, Lafferty cited implementing electronic medical records, introducing a new cost accounting system so each department could monitor its own expenses and revenue, and an overhaul of the hospital’s policies and procedures that were seriously outdated.

“The whole house has been converted to new automation,” Lafferty said. “Everything is current and state of the art.”

Lafferty emphasized that the process was at times painful, converting employees who had used paper for 35 years, but it was mandated, as were many of the changes that Lafferty pushed forward.

Lafferty is proud of what has been accomplished and thinks that the hospital is poised to move into the future.

But he doesn’t take all of the credit. “The team did it; they all worked hard,” he said.

Lafferty told his staff that he won’t be on the hospital campus, but that he is available if they need him.

“I want them to focus on the future,” he said. “My goal is for them to take the foundation that we built and move it forward.”

As for his own plans, he said it would be an adjustment for his wife of 38 years to have him around full time. In the immediate future his son will be getting married and he has plans with friends.

“I turn 67 next month, so I don’t need to be working full time,” he said, but added that it’s hard for him just to relax and put his feet up.

Though details of the agreement haven’t been revealed, it appears that Lafferty’s departure is a mutual decision and some of the directors weighed in on his tenure.

“I am grateful and appreciate all the great things Doug has done in the time he has been with us,” director Valerie Flanigan said. “He really has accomplished a lot.”

Director Kathy Price said, “I am thankful for the three years of leadership Doug has given Plumas District Hospital. I want to reassure the community that the board, senior management team and all of the employees will continue to provide them with excellent health care and services.”

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