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Hospital releases resignation letter

— Three Rivers Hospital has provided the resignation letter for outgoing Chief Executive Officer O.E. “Bud” Hufnagel Jr.

The letter includes much of the same praises and concerns Hufnagel, 66, previously shared in an interview with The Chronicle, including his opinion that the board of commissioners is divided.

“When I came to the hospital in September of 2011, I committed to you and the other Board members that I felt strongly that our situation could be improved,” the letter begins. “What I wasn’t sure about was whether or not the hospital could be turned around, given our demographics, adverse payer mix and significant volume of self-pay patients that we see.

“We have made tremendous strides in this regard and the credit for that goes to hospital staff and their managers. A good deal of the credit also goes to most members of the current Board and their commitment to being positive influences in the community, supporting the plans that we have collectively formulated, and having the courage to do the right thing.

“Unfortunately that relationship has taken a different turn and vested as well as emotional interests have superseded responsible decision making. With that recognition also come’s the recognition that a successful turn-around can’t be facilitated if the organization lacks the will to do so.

“As a result, this letter will serve as notice to the board of my intention to resign as CEO of Three Rivers Hospital effective April 30, 2014.

“Until my departure, I can assure you that my staff and I will stay focused on meeting the health needs of the entire district and continue to do the right things for our patients, staff and this organization. In addition, as we discussed, if the board would like for me to try and identify a short list of qualified CEO candidates during this period, I would be happy to do that for the Hospital.”

Hufnagel gave his letter to board Chairwoman Vicki Orford and outgoing board member Dan Webster after the Dec. 30 special meeting had adjourned. It was addressed to Orford and Webster, and copied to commissioners Mike Pruett, Cherryl Thomas, Tracy Shrable and Jerry Tretwold.

Webster and four of the five current commissioners declined to provide a copy of the letter before The Chronicle’s deadline for the Jan. 8 edition. Shrable did not respond to a phone call.

Orford read parts of the letter to The Chronicle on Jan. 6, except paragraphs pertaining to the board.

The hospital shared the letter Jan. 7 after The Chronicle filed a records request.

Hufnagel has said his resignation is not a reaction to contentious board meetings in late 2013, when some hospital staff and community members objected to cutting services.

Commissioners approved a budget plan that is estimated to net $422,349 of income for the hospital in 2014.

The plan eliminates 16 positions, Healthbeat Fitness Center and Advantage Durable Medical Equipment; reduces the hours of respiratory therapy and surgery, and ends non-emergent surgeries except Cesarean sections.

Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, originally slated to close, will continue twice a week now that three physicians have agreed to be on-site supervisors so the hospital can comply with the law.

The program will operate from 7-8:30 a.m. and 12:30-2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Hours could be extended when all the patient slots are filled.

Hufnagel was hired in September 2011 to turn around the hospital’s financial position and reduce the interest-bearing warrants with Okanogan County, which as of Monday were reduced to $1.88 million.

In July 2013, the board renewed his contract for another two years at $175,000 per year.

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