Hospital, community can be grateful for Bieganski's leadership

Monday, January 22, 2007

When Gary Bieganski became administrator of the four-year-old Community Hospital in 1978, it was a 45,000 square-foot facility with about 130 employees and an annual gross revenue of $2 million.

By Friday, when friends, c0-workers and well-wishers crowded into the lobby and cafe Friday to honor Bieganski on his transition into retirement, Community Hospital had grown to cover 176,000 square feet, employ about 240 people and have a gross revenue of $37.5 million.

Not only had the hospital grown to include home health and hospice, two rural clinics, orthopedics, general surgery, CT scan, MRI and visiting specialist clinics, but under Bieganski's leadership, it had done it during the most exciting, turbulent and challenging periods in the history of health care.

And he kept at it until the end, overseeing construction of the hospital's new $3.8 million rehabilitation center, taking shape in the center of Community Hospital's building complex.

But the retiring administrator is quick to point out that health care ultimately isn't about bricks and mortar, technology and balance sheets.

"The building is what the people see, but what's really the most important thing is the people," he said. "You take the people out of the picture, and you have a cold building that deteriorates. With people, you have healing, birth, rehabilitation and assistance in the natural transition to death.

And, while always setting high standards for himself and the rest of the staff, Bieganski is also quick to credit the rest of the hospital management, board and employees with the success of the hospital.

While a succession plan to move Jim Ulrich into the position of hospital president has been in place since 2002, Bieganski has always worked to make sure the organization could continue to function even if the CEO is on vacation or incapacitated.

And, even he and his wife, Donna Jean, have planned the retirement home, now being completed on the family ranch near Chadron, for 40 years.

It is that sort of forward thinking that has resulted in McCook and Southwest Nebraska being blessed with a modern healthcare system on a strong financial footing.

We're sure Gary Bieganski will stay involved in health care issues during retirement, and, as a member of the Nebraska State College board of trustees, turn his attentions to enhancing his alma mater, Chadron State College, as well as Peru State and Wayne State colleges.

"Thank you, Gary, for being that 'constant' amongst all the change, our beacon of light to guide us through the fog of regulations and other challenges and our ray of hope for the future," successor Jim Ulrich said at Friday's reception. "Community Hospital will be forever grateful."

And, we might add, the community should be as well.

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