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Valley Regional CEO Steps Down Before Retiring

Claire Bowen, President and CEO of Valley Regional Hospital. (Courtesy photograph)

Claire Bowen, President and CEO of Valley Regional Hospital. (Courtesy photograph)

Claremont — The outgoing head of Valley Regional Hospital has stepped down suddenly due to “unanticipated personal challenges” just two months before she was set to retire.

Valley Regional President and CEO Claire Bowen announced the decision in an email to hospital staff on Friday. The exact nature of the personal challenges was not specified, only that they did not allow her to devote her complete attention to the hospital, according to a news release yesterday.

Spokesman Rolf Olsen said the hospital would have no further comment on her departure, but added that this would likely be the end of her 13-year tenure at Valley Regional.

“The sense is that she will not be back before her permanent replacement is hired,” he said.

A consulting firm will be coming on board today or tomorrow to help run the hospital while Valley Regional searches for Bowen’s permanent replacement, he said. The Claremont hospital was already far along in its search, which began after Bowen announced her retirement last March.

Two finalists for the job are scheduled to be at the hospital later this month for a last round of interviews. Olsen said he expects an offer to be extended by early February and the new president and CEO to be in place by early March.

“Valley Regional has been fortunate to have Claire Bowen leading the hospital for 13 years,” said Carol Vivian, chairwoman of Valley Regional’s board of trustees, in a statement. “She has accomplished a great deal that she can rightfully look back on with pride.”

In her time at Valley Regional, Bowen oversaw a $22.5 million expansion and renovation in 2010, and stewarded the 120-year-old institution through difficult times that included cuts in New Hampshire’s Medicaid program, the closing of the hospital’s birthing center last year and preparing for changes under federal health reform.

Bowen counted among her most significant accomplishments that Valley Regional was the only small hospital in the state to earn accreditation from The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations around the nation. The Joint Commission accreditation subjects hospitals to rigorous reviews of quality and safety measures.

Accreditation renewal comes up every three years and Valley Regional is up for renewal this year, Olsen said. Joint Commission inspectors could make an unannounced visit at the hospital any time. Olsen said the hospital has been preparing for the review.

“They’re rigorous,” he said, referring to the inspectors. “They look at everything.”

Bowen also serves on a number of local nonprofit trustee and advisory boards including Turning Points Network and the United Way of Sullivan County.

The news release did not say whether her role with those organizations would be affected.

In her email to staff, Bowen praised the hospital’s dedication to the community and said she had every expectation that Valley Regional would continue to serve Claremont well.

“Collectively, we have shared an endearing and enduring dedication to this small and mighty community hospital system,” she said. “Building on its robust history, Valley Regional can and should succeed. Our community deserves no less.”

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.