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Jurena leaving HAMC to head North Dakota Healthcare Association

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Opportunity knocked, and Jerry Jurena answered.

Jurena, who has spent the past 15 years as the chief executive officer of Rugby’s Heart of America Medical Center (HAMC), is leaving to become president of the North Dakota Healthcare Association, which is based in Bismarck. He will begin his new position this summer.

“It’s just one of those opportunities that don’t come very often, and it happened very quickly,” Jurena said, referring to the offer to head the association, replacing long-time president Chip Thomas.

He spent 13 years on the NDHA board, serving for a time as the legislative chairman, so Jurena is familiar with its mission.

Thomas retired last spring but has stayed on until a new president could be hired. And that search ended earlier this month with Jurena’s hiring.

Dave Molmen, chairman of the NDHA board and CEO of Altru Health System, Grand Forks, said Jurena is well respected by his peers in the healthcare industry and is a real innovator. Just looking at what he’s been able to accomplish in his time at the HAMC is testament to that.

Jurena’s experience with the association and his passion for working as an adovocate for the industry in the government and legislative arena are well noted.”We had some real excellent candidates, many from across the country, but Jerry’s accomplishments in this state and experience and talents made him the right choice,” Molmen said.

Jurena, indeed, has extensive experience in testifying before lawmakers at the state and federal levels, representing the medical facility and different health care associations in changing or establishing new policies or programs. That was a part of his role as HAMC administrator, but now it will become his primary duty with NDHA, representing the state’s hospitals and taking a leadership role in major healthcare issues.

“I’m excited about it, but at the same time it’s a little scary,” he admits.

Jon Nelson, current vice chairman of the Good Samaritan Hospital Board, said Jurena will be sorely missed, not just because of his leadership at the hospital, but elsewhere in the community where he served in organizations, including economic development.

Rob Hovland, who spent nine years on the hospital board, eight as chairman, said Jurena put his heart and soul into the facility.

“It was more than a job for him,” Hovland said. “At times it was a difficult position to be in, especially the challenges of Medicare reimbursements and the continual government regulations to contend with. However, he kept positive, kept working at ways to cut expenses where possible and generate revenue. For him it was a challenge.”

When he arrived the objective was to develop a strategic plan, determining where to expand, update the facility.

From that blueprint, changes came, some small and many significant. Jurena referred to them as “stepping stones.”

Among them was the establishment of Golden Heart Paramedics, which today serves three communities and handles the billing services for about 70 ambulance services across the state.

Renovation of the first floor of the HAMC led to the creation of a community Wellness Center and new Fox Auditorium, a project that was funded almost entirely through private donations, Jurena said.

In addition to the Wellness Center, the physical and occupational therapy services have grown considerably. They provide contract services throughout the north central region.

The long term care unit at the HAMC on the second and third floors of the facility was remodeled as well.

Shortages in nursing staff prompted the administrators to look at bringing back an on-site nurse training program, bringing training to residents in the area.

Through his efforts and those of the staff, the program was started in partnership with the N.D. State School of Science in Wahpeton. Today, the facility works with MSU-Bottineau and has since evolved to now include RN training. The vision of the HAMC prompted many hospitals in the state to establish similiar training programs.

Jurena credits the staff for the success and advancement of the HAMC.

“The entrepreneurial spirit is unbelievable,” he said. “Countless times I’ve had department heads come in and say, ‘I have an idea,’ “

And their vision, and the support of the hospital board and community, have led to these changes, and others that will continue to be made.

“What also made him effective is he listened, and he utilizes the talents around him,” Nelson said.

He was willing to give staff more responsibilities support them.

“I think he knew what motivated his workers and how to challenge them, and show his faith in them,” Hovland said.

Nelson, who also serves as a District 7 Representative in the N.D. Legislature, wishes Jerry well in his new endeavor and knows he will get to work with him in some capacity during the legislative process.

“He certainly will be in a position to help us and healthcare facilities in general across the state (as head of the association),” Nelson said. “And I think the state is getting an excellent leader and healthcare advocate.”

Jurena will remain on staff through early summer, and the hospital board has already begun the process of finding the next administrator.

A firm to conduct a search for a new HAMC administrator will be hired and it is expected to take three or four months to complete interviews and have a candidate selected.

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