Incumbents seek three hospital board seats

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Karen Merrick

By Caroline Rosacker

Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with candidates for Guttenberg municipal and school board offices in the Nov. 7 election. Following are interviews with three candidates for three seats on the hospital board. 

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Bill Allyn

1. Why are you running for the hospital board? I’ve had the pleasure of serving as hospital trustee for the past eight years, and I can say that I truly have enjoyed serving on the board and all the duties that come with this position.  In the past eight years I’m proud to look back and reflect on the many achievements the board has been involved with, as well as the projects we are currently working on, the strategies being considered for long-term success, and I would be honored to keep working on those goals. Our local board is very involved and active in many areas of health care including quality and finance committees, along with special committees during times of special strategy projects the hospital endures. I’m very excited on some of the long-term strategies the board is working towards and would like to see those achievements reach reality.  

2. What are your qualifications and background? Prior to becoming a hospital trustee my experience includes being a licensed funeral director for over 16 years, licensed insurance agent for financial planning and long-term strategies. I’ve served as Guttenberg City Cemetery board member and currently have been a city cemetery advisor since 2004, Stewardship Committee for St. John’s Lutheran Church and board member for Esmann Island Owners Association in the past.  I’ve had the pleasure of running the day-to-day operation for Tuecke-Allyn Funeral Home since 2008 and being the owner-operator since 2012. I’ve achieved an AA degree from Kirkwood Community College, Mortuary Science degree from Worsham in Chicago, Ill., and during my tenure as hospital trustee I went back to college and received a bachelor’s degree in Health Service Administration from Upper Iowa. Since January of 2017 I’ve been a graduate student at Des Moines University where this coming December 2019, I will have achieved my Master’s Degree in Health Administration, but ultimately for our local hospital one of my greatest qualification would be the past eight years serving to have a good grasp on our local organization’s past present and future.  

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? Long-term strategies for success which include physician recruitment, increased collaborations with other health organizations, and systems to ensure that GMHC is the best option for receiving high-quality health care services, and that our organization would be the choice for members of our surrounding communities to receive those services as well.  There is a lot of potential out there right now, and our board has been and will be working diligently to make GMHC better than it is today.  As a long-time citizen of Guttenberg, husband, father of four children, surrounded by relatives and friends, my hope is that GMHC will be able to increase services offered locally so that when health services are required, they can be obtained locally, and that type of strategy, along with members of the community who strive for that level of quality, is just what organizations need, and I hope to continue to be a small part of that strategy for success.  

Karen Merrick 

1. Why are you running for the hospital board? In 1961, GMH was established by the City of Guttenberg as a nonprofit municipal hospital. By 2015, the hospital was named a Top 100 Hospital by iVantage Analytics, received the Guardian of Excellence Award for Inpatient Satisfaction from Press Ganey, and the Cornerstone Family Practice clinic achieved NCQA certification as a MEDICAL HOME. This certification is the real Big Deal as patient care delivered with a primary care orientation is associated with more effective, equitable, and efficient health services.

 We are actively recruiting Primary Care Physicians to make sure the quality of care we have reached continues. The plan needed to meet this goal must recognize that while 20% of Americans live in rural counties only 10% of physicians practice there. Currently, Iowa urban communities and communities ringing urban areas are the first career choice for a majority of newly-minted primary care physicians. 

I am running for this office to make sure a plan is developed and implemented to beat the odds and continue our tradition of excellence.

2. What are your qualifications and background? Like many others who live or have lived in Guttenberg, I have been lucky enough to wear many hats. Small towns have a unique way of giving you opportunities to be involved. While I held positions in state government economic development efforts and in the private sector, I know that the lessons learned serving as a Guttenberg city council member and as the mayor have been the most helpful to me as a current member and Chair of the GMHC Board. However, my state economic development efforts to create the supports needed to help young companies establish and grow also provided to me a better understanding of the millennials driving this new economy. It is from that generation from which we will draw our next Primary Care Physicians.

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? GMHC must recruit Primary Care Physicians if we are to maintain health care services in Guttenberg. To meet this challenge, we must understand why a young physician would be reluctant to move to a small town, take that knowledge and create the strategy needed to be successful. The literature and our current recruitment experiences tells us what young physicians need and want.

1. From the Hospital:

a. Telemedicine support

b. Work/life balance

2. From the City:

a. Access to cultural opportunities 

b. Robust shopping & restaurant scene

c. Kid-focused activities and learning opportunities 

In the past, our hospital and physicians have done the work of finding and signing new doctors. This old model will struggle to be successful if the City of Guttenberg is not involved. While the hospital and physicians can define salaries and responsibilities of employment, they do not have the power to address the quality of life issues of new millennial physicians.  Only the City can address those issues. 

Janice Andregg

1. Why are you running for the hospital board? One of the reasons I am running for the Board of Trustees at GMHC is because I have served in that capacity for the last four years. During that time, we had some very difficult decisions to make, and I would like to be involved in the on-going process that these decisions have created.

I am also very interested in maintaining GMHC as an independent hospital and clinics. 

2. What are your qualifications and background? I believe my most important qualification is having served on the Board of Trustees at GMHC for the past four years. I have the background to deal with the decisions and changes that were made during that period. At GMHC I currently serve on the Quality and Safety Committee, as well as the patient Family Advisory Committee (PFAC). 

Prior to my term on the GMHC Board, I served two terms on the Clayton Ridge School Board, and seven years on the Planning and Zoning Board for the City of Guttenberg. I am presently serving on the City of Guttenberg Cemetery Board, the Board of Directors for Clayton Ridge Dollars for Scholars, and I am very active in my church, St. Paul Lutheran in Guttenberg. 

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? The most pressing issue currently is recruiting doctors and nurses. It is very difficult to recruit doctors and nurses to a rural facility. The hospital administration, doctors, and recruiters have been very active in this process. 

We have doctors wanting to retire in the not too distant future, and it is imperative we have doctors to replace them. 

We have a shortage of nurses, so this is another area of concern. 

Finances will always be an important issue the board has to deal with. At the present time, the financial position of the hospital is good, but payment systems are always changing and have to be dealt with.

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