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December 29, 2011 9:26 am

2011 Top Stories: Hospital CEO comes on board, then resigns six months later

Written by Ilene Olson

The year 2011 began on a hopeful note for Powell Valley Healthcare when Paul Cardwell interviewed a second time to fill the vacant chief executive officer position and, also for a second time, was offered the job.

Cardwell initially accepted the position in fall 2010, then in November 2010 he said he wouldn’t be coming after all.

In February, Cardwell was selected as a finalist for the position again, and in an interview with the PVHC board, he told of a months-long intensive search in Thailand for his adopted baby’s birth mother in order for the baby’s adoption to go through. Given those circumstances, the PVHC board and HealthTech Management Services Inc., the company that employs the CEO, decided to give Cardwell a second chance and again offered him the job.

Cardwell came on board in March. His stated first objectives were to hire more physicians and expand hospital services, then to begin planning for needed renovation and expansion of hospital and clinic facilities.

Cardwell did recruit additional physicians, including two OB-GYN specialists, and cardiologist Paul LaVeau also agreed to return to Powell Valley Healthcare.

Three orthopedic doctors from Cody also agreed to provide services in Powell, and Cardwell said additional specialists from Billings might be willing to do so as well.

Another recruit was Dr. Cory Pickens, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist from Billings. However, Pickens’ history of prescription drug abuse and recovery efforts later became public knowledge, and he never moved his practice here.

In June, Cardwell made a pledge for a $100,000 donation to the Powell Medical Foundation, earmarked for a maternity and family care center at the hospital.

Powell Medical Foundation Director Diane DeLozier said last week that Cardwell’s $100,000 donation pledge never was put in writing, and she has had no contact from him since he made the pledge.

At Cardwell’s recommendation, the PVHC board hired a company to update Powell Valley Healthcare’s master facility plan, which found the greatest need for expansion and renovation in the surgery, emergency and obstetrics departments at the hospital, as well as finishing off the second floor and basement of the new clinic building. He organized a committee to begin planning for those facility updates, but no funding for them has been identified yet.

In early August, Cardwell returned to his former home in Indiana, reportedly to begin his family’s move to Powell. He returned in mid September.

On Sept. 23, Cardwell submitted his resignation to HealthTech for reasons not made public, and HealthTech accepted his resignation.

He then attended the Sept. 26 Powell Valley Healthcare board meeting and said he wanted to rescind that resignation. Cardwell said he resigned because he was told he was no longer wanted here, but later found that to be untrue.

Despite vocal support from several doctors, HealthTech declined to rescind Cardwell’s resignation. The PVHC board backed that decision, stating the need for “more clarity” in the matter.

Cardwell could not be reached for comment.

Upon Cardwell’s resignation, Mike Lieb was appointed as interim CEO until a permanent replacement can be hired. Talks with a CEO candidate currently are under way.

Although Cardwell bought a home here, his family never did move to Powell.

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