Hospital CEO eager to embrace future

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August 3, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Tony Thompson looks out his office window to see endless rows of corn leading up to the massive Strickler Dairy complex at the northeast corner of Iola.
The sight brings a broad smile.
Thompson grew up in Batesville, in north-central Arkansas, where his father worked for years at a dairy farm. Young Tony took his first job on that dairy.
“This is very familiar to me, to look out the window and see a dairy out there,” he continued. “It’s very near and dear to my heart.”
Thompson, 58, became Allen County Regional Hospital’s new chief executive officer earlier this month.
“It’s a great organization with great folks who work here,” he said. “I feel enriched just being here.”
With the hospital’s move from downtown Iola to the sprawling, $30 million complex along North Kentucky Street in December 2013, a number of routine — yet vital — organizational steps were necessary.
The hospital had to recertify to ensure ACRH could continue to receive Medicare funding, Thompson explained — “no small feat,” he declared.
With that transition effectively in the books, the focus heads to the future. The hospital’s board of trustees will work in league with Thompson to develop a strategic mission and vision for ACRH.
“That will be our guiding principal our management team will use,” Thompson said. “It’s really the best for a new CEO like myself that this is happening now. They should be able to articulate my marching orders, so to speak.”
And with Thompson on board as the strategic vision takes shape, the board will be able to develop a clear, concise message to hospital administrators and staff.
“Communication is essential,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about putting on a Super Bowl or a Christmas parade, or if you’re leading an organization. We’re a group of individuals, but we’re working as one. Our strategic planning will be very inclusive.
“We’re all creatures of habit,” he continued. “I drive the same way to work, East on Broadway and North on Kentucky. Now, think about staff that has worked for 40 years at a location. Now we’re in this new environment. We need to make sure people develop new habits and become comfortable that we’re not in the old place.
“We’re in the new place,” he said, “and this is a good place to be.”
Thompson comes to Allen County from Goodland Regional Medical Center in northwest Kansas. During his tenure, he led the 25-bed critical access and county-owned hospital — sound familiar? — through organizational restructuring and quality improvement opportunities.
“Their previous administrator had been there for 14 years,” he recalled. “Some of the physicians were nearer the end of their careers, and new physicians were coming on. I came on at a point, they needed help with that transition.”

THOMPSON earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and his master’s degree in healthcare from the University of Mississippi in Oxford. From there, he completed a fellowship in administration at Memorial Care System in Houston, Texas. It was in Houston that he met Carolyn, who would become his wife.
The Thompsons bounced around from Houston, to San Antonio, and then to Blair, Neb., before eventually returning to Tony’s hometown in Batesville. He spent 14 years as associate administrator at White River Health System. During his time there, the organization earned the distinguished Governor’s Quality Award.
It was about the time their daughter, Amy, was graduating college that the Thompsons decided to move on. He took the job in Goodland
“When my daughter graduated college, we actually left her in our home,” he recalled. “She was the empty-nester. I will say, we’ve been very good landlords.”
But it was his daughter’s subsequent marriage and pregnancy — she’s due to give birth in January — that prompted Thompson to find a place closer to his hometown.
“Between her marriage and my father’s passing last year, my wife and I had to pause and ask, ‘Where do we want to be?’ The answer was a whole lot closer to our daughter.”
Enter Allen County.
“I am truly honored to join Allen County Regional Hospital,” he said. “This is going to be a great place for me. I have every intention to finish my career here.”
Thompson drew praise from M.L. Lagarde, president of HCA Midwest Health, which operates ACRH.
“I’m confident Tony will prove to be an asset to both Allen County Regional Hospital and the surrounding community,” Lagarde said in a press release. “His leadership, experiences, accomplishments and his commitment to healthcare speak for themselves. He is dedicated to furthering HCA Midwest Health and Allen County Regional Hospital’s commitment to deliver the highest level of care to the residents of the communities it serves.”

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