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RANGELY — Merrill Frank is back in familiar territory.
The retired hospital administrator recently returned for a second stint at Rangely District Hospital. He was CEO at the hospital the first time from January 1997 to October 1999, when he retired.
He and his wife, Sally, then sold their house in town, put their furniture in storage, and hit the road.
“We’ve lived in a fifth-wheel for nine years,” Frank said. “We’ve been full-time RVers.”
The Franks traveled the country doing volunteer work at wildlife refuges and national parks.
“We lived with one goal,” Frank said. “That was to live (someplace) between 50 and 80 degrees. That won’t be the case shortly.”
The Franks have parked their RV, for now.
In late July, Frank was hired on an interim basis when former CEO Jason McCormick and the hospital agreed to part company.
McCormick had been CEO since January 2006.
Since arriving, Frank is doing a lot of observing.
“I’m still learning; I’m still evaluating,” he said.
He knew, given the circumstances, he was walking into a bit of a tough situation.
“I understand there are some unhappy people,” he said. “Obviously, I am concerned how our people feel about working here. I hope my style begins to make people feel better.”
Frank said he is keeping an open mind.
“I tend to collect a lot of opinions, and then check it with facts, before making decisions,” he said. “I guess I just try to be an open communicator. I tend to be very open in discussing our issues and problems.”
Staffing has been one of those issues.
“We had an uneasy, unstable environment, because we did not have enough permanent physician staff,” he said.
But Frank hopes that situation will improve, soon.
He said negotiations have been finalized with a family practitioner who will start in September.
“We have two more candidates who may be joining us,” Frank said. “We’re on the verge of having a stable medical staff now.”
One of Frank’s other tasks is to find his replacement.
“I made a commitment (to the board) of a minimum of four months,” he said. “But I am open (to staying longer).”
Even though Frank has been retired for nine years, he’s been involved in hospital administration for more than three decades, so he’s drawing on that experience.
“I did this before for them; I helped them find a replacement,” he said.
Jack Rich, chairman of the hospital board of directors, said Frank will be an asset, even if he’s only here for a short time.
“We’ve set a goal of four to six months (to hire a new CEO), though with Merrill’s experience and expertise, we don’t have to rush things,” Rich said. “We can make sure we make the right decision.”
Frank said the hospital should explore all options in order to find that right person.
“There are management companies out there,” he said. “We could do our own search. There may be internal possibilities. We could use a search firm. I want to use a cross section of people from the hospital and the community, that would be helpful in a search.”
In the meantime, Frank is re-acquainting himself with the hospital. He said much had changed since he was here before.
“There’s a lot of new technology, new equipment, new procedures, some new clinics,” he said. “Lots of remodeling has occurred.”
He may miss being on the road, but Frank is happy to be of service again to the hospital.
“Actually, I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” he said. “I’ve been welcomed by people. I’ve been encouraged by their comments. They’ve shared concerns with me.”
Having spent his entire career working at rural hospitals, Frank understands how important the health care facility is to the town.
“It’s a critical asset to the community,” he said.