Officials with Kalispell Regional Healthcare on Friday announced a “leadership redesign” that will affect approximately 130 employees as the organization’s executive team begins implementing sweeping changes in order to “adapt to the pressures of a rapidly changing healthcare environment” and “support financial stewardship,” according to an email to staff.
In the email, sent Friday to KRH employees and corroborated in an official statement provided to the Flathead Beacon, the organization’s top executives write that they anticipate “minimal involuntary departures across the organization as most leaders will have opportunities for new positions within the new structure.”
The new structure takes effect Jan. 1, while staff in affected leadership positions will continue to work in their current roles through the end of the year, according to KRH spokesperson Mellody Sharpton.
With more than 4,000 employees, Kalispell Regional Healthcare is the largest employer in the Flathead Valley.
“Out of respect for our staff, we will not discuss any specific positions, impacted individuals or departments,” Sharpton stated in an email to the Beacon. “Our Executive Team thoroughly evaluated the current KRH leadership structure, and determined that a leadership structure redesign in many areas is necessary to meet the organization’s changing needs.”
Sharpton declined repeated requests for interviews with William Gibson and Tracey Talley, who on Friday assumed dual interim roles as interim president and CEO of the KRH organization following the departure of former President and CEO Pamela Robertson.
Robertson announced in September that she was leaving her position for personal reasons, effective Nov. 30, the same day the changes were announced. KRH has established a search committee to seek out a permanent replacement, while in the meantime Gibson, the former general counsel at KRH, and Talley are charged with overseeing hospital operations.
The CEO search process is still underway and is not yet completed, Sharpton said.
In Robertson’s announcement that she’s stepping down, she acknowledged “major challenges” at the hospital, but said they are “well underway to being behind KRH” and that she has “extreme confidence in the organization’s future.”
Amid those challenges, KRH was at the center of a Department of Justice investigation into allegations its physicians received illegal compensation in exchange for patient referrals to in-house services, and in late September the health care organization reached a $24 million settlement with the federal government to resolve allegations brought forth by a former employee in a whistleblower lawsuit.
The whistleblower complaint alleged that 63 physicians were involved in an illegal kickback scheme to boost revenues and enrich themselves, a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the False Claims Act and the Stark Law, which prohibit physician self-referrals.
It is the largest False Claims Act recovery in Montana history.
In announcing the leadership redesign, hospital officials made no mention of the settlement, the lawsuit or the allegations, nearly all of which occurred during a period when former CEO and President Velinda Stevens was overseeing operations. Stevens died in January 2017.
Instead, hospital officials described the need to reevaluate a leadership structure that has been in place for many years.
“This leadership redesign will consist of changes in leadership structure, modified titles, roles and/or responsibilities of approximately 130 KRH leaders,” according to the email to staff. “We anticipate that there will be minimal involuntary departures across the organization as most leaders will have opportunities for new positions within the new structure.”
It continues: “This redesign is not meant to diminish the work currently being performed by our leaders. Our goal is to better align roles with the needs of the organization while retaining as many employees as possible through different roles and opportunities within KRH. The redesigned structure will provide role clarity and accountability, support financial stewardship, improve organizational efficiency, increase leadership visibility and help our organization adapt to a changing environment. We are taking a proactive approach by aligning our organizational resources to focus on our mission.
“We are thankful for the contributions of our KRH leaders, appreciative of their agility, willingness and desire to take on new roles, and are deeply committed to helping them through this transition with dignity and respect. All leaders impacted by this change have been informed of this news and provided with transition support.”
According to sources with knowledge of the redesign, the changes will have a significant impact on the organization’s Charge Registered Nurses, who have managerial and supervisory duties and whose positions are being eliminated.
A Nov. 29 memo from Chief Nursing Executive Teresa Fisher addressed to Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s Charge Registered Nurses explained that KRH is eliminating their roles and will instead transition to a new leadership model that employs Shift Unit Supervisors.
In order to facilitate the new model, 48 Shift Unit Supervisor positions were posted at the end of the day Nov. 30. Charge Registered Nurses must apply for those positions by Dec. 10.
“You will have an opportunity to apply for a Shift Unit Supervisor position if you are qualified for the role,” according to the memo. “You will also have the opportunity to pursue other positions within the organization for which you may be qualified and interested.”
The memo also states that KRH has multiple openings for full-time and part-time positions across the organization.
“Our goal is to better align roles with the needs of the organization while retaining as many employees as possible through different roles and opportunities within KRH,” according to hospital officials.