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Familiar face takes interim post at HAMC

By Staff | Nov 29, 2019

Jerry Jurena, interim CEO of Heart of America Medical Center, says he's "enjoyed coming back" to Rugby. Sue Sitter/PCT

Longtime employees at Heart of America Medical Center are seeing a familiar face in the hallways lately.

Jerry Jurena, who served as CEO of the medical center from 1994-2009 has come back to fill the post vacated by former CEO Pat Branco.

“I was here 15 years,” Jurena told the Tribune. “I’ve had 40-plus years in healthcare. I retired, and I still have a house here in Rugby. When (HAMC) said they were in between administrators and they needed to have someone with a nursing home license fill in until the next CEO came in, they asked me, ‘Would you do it?’ I said, ‘Sure!'”

“As long as it’s not long term, yeah, I’d do it,” Jurena said with a smile.

Jurena came back to his former job after working as a lobbyist for the North Dakota Hospital Association in Bismarck. “I traveled to Washington, D.C., about six times a year,” he noted. “I lived in Bismarck. I toured hospitals throughout the state, so having a house here in Rugby when I was traveling the state, I didn’t have to drive all the way back to Bismarck.”

Jurena, who grew up in Nebraska, said he began his health care career after graduating from college and serving in the military. His work took him to Fargo, Nebraska, Wyoming and Oregon, he said, “and then I came back to North Dakota. So, I’ve been here 26 years.”

Because Jurena kept a home in Rugby after retiring from HAMC, he said he still maintains his connections with the community. “It hasn’t changed (since retirement),” Jurena said. “It’s the same community I left – I really haven’t left.”

Jurena said Susan Price and Jennifer Mullenix recently left their administrative positions at the medical center, and “We’re trying to fill all those spots. We have a host of openings on our website. That’s just ongoing. That’s rural hospitals across the state.”

“Even large hospitals have multiple openings,” Jurena noted. “One of the issues I met with the department heads on was we have all these openings, and so we’re looking for suggestions and ideas how to fill them.”

“But you know what?” Jurena added. “When your unemployment is under 3 percent statewide and you’re in a rural area, it’s difficult.”

Jurena said until the multiple vacancies at HAMC are filled, “I’m just filling in. (Rugby) is a neat community. I’ve enjoyed coming back.”

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