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EDITORIAL: Retaining CEO a positive step for PVHC

It’s no secret that it’s been a rough several years for Powell Valley Healthcare, but we believe the organization’s leaders recently made a wise choice — and an important one — in choosing to retain Terry Odom as their chief executive officer.

Odom had served as Powell Valley Healthcare’s interim CEO since April 2015 as an employee of HealthTech Management Services. PVHC and HealthTech decided to part ways at the end of June, but Odom agreed to stay on and continue leading the Powell hospital, clinic, long-term care center and other facilities.

“I want this hospital to be a viable part of Powell — for the economy and for the local health care,” Odom said at the time. “I’m committed to the organization as long as the board believes I’m doing an effective job.”

R.J. Kost, the president of the Powell Valley Healthcare Board of Trustees, goes beyond “effective” in describing Odom’s performance — calling her management of PVHC “just outstanding.”

“She’s been able to take care of controversy, she’s been able to take care of challenges. She’s been able to find ways to cut back without hurting our morale of the personnel,” Kost told the Tribune recently, saying Odom has made the organization much more stable financially.

“We’re just in a lot better position than we’ve been,” he said.

Kost said Odom is knowledgeable, even-keeled, liked by doctors, does not rush into decisions, listens to other people, follows through on complaints and is transparent in bringing problems and information to the board’s attention, among other things.

“We really feel like she’s the kind of a management style person we were looking for in the first place,” Kost said.

He later added that, “I’m not knocking anybody that’s been in the past, I’m just saying, coming from where we’ve been, it’s nice to know we’ve got somebody that we trust, that we can rely on, that we can lean on and she’s just real strong.”

We believe the board has picked the right attributes to value in a leader, and it certainly appears Odom meets all of those criteria.

We’re also glad to see some continuity in leadership at PVHC. After the departure of longtime CEO Rod Barton in 2010, things have been unstable at the top of the organizational chart. The trouble started with Barton’s first permanent successor, Paul Cardwell, who turned out to be an embezzling con man rather than a leader; his six months on the job — and theft of close to $848,000 from the organization — were followed by a federal prison sentence.

The next hire, Bill Patten, served for roughly three years. Unfortunately, Patten may be best remembered as being the hospital’s leader when Dr. Jeffrey Hansen performed numerous surgeries and procedures that — according to malpractice lawsuits filed by more than a dozen patients — were either botched or were inappropriate. The sheer number of those suits eventually forced PVHC to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year to manage them all.

Odom stepped into a difficult position in 2015 — many of the lawsuits about care provided by Hansen had already piled up before she got here — and she remains in a difficult spot with PVHC still working through the bankruptcy process.

But that didn’t scare her off.

“I have more to do,” Odom said last month, in explaining why she agreed to stay on.

That resolve is another reason why Odom is the right choice for the job.

We also appreciate the similar willingness of PVHC’s board members — who are unpaid volunteers — to stick out what’s been a rough several years. It would have been easy for them to quit or simply not run for re-election and to hand the problems off to someone else.

An organization is, of course, much more than its leaders. It takes dedicated doctors, nurses, technicians, custodians, administrative assistants and many more people to make our hospital work. But if you doubt the impact that leadership can have on an organization, we would suggest just looking back at PVHC’s rough patches over the past several years.

Powell Valley Healthcare is not out of the woods yet, but we applaud the organization’s commitment to moving forward and are glad to see Odom helping lead the way.

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