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Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont names interim CEO

  • Deanna Howard (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 05, 2019

CLAREMONT — A retired Dartmouth-Hitchcock official will become interim president and chief executive officer of Valley Regional Healthcare beginning on Feb. 18.

Deanna Howard, a health care consultant from Etna who previously served as vice president of regional development for the D-H system, will replace outgoing Valley Regional CEO Peter Wright, who is leaving in March to become president of two hospitals that are part of Lewiston, Maine-based Central Maine Healthcare, Valley Regional announced in a news release.

“I think the main point of this interim position is to ... provide (Valley Regional’s board) enough space and time to really explore how to keep moving in a positive forward direction,” Howard said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I look forward to helping with that.”

Howard, 70, brings her experience at D-H, which included working with rural hospitals in New Hampshire and Vermont. It is through that work that she sat on Valley Regional’s board for a time, even serving on the search committee that hired Wright in 2013.

“I’m familiar with them,” she said of the Claremont hospital.

Her board experience also includes previously serving as chairwoman of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, as well as a current post on the board of Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, a D-H affiliate.

As it has for Wright, Valley Regional will employ Howard through a management contract with D-H. To select Howard for this interim role — in exchange for a salary Howard said is still being worked out — the hospital’s board worked with D-H to come up with a list of four finalists, Valley Regional board chairwoman Patricia Putnam said.

“Of those four, Deanna was a clear standout,” Putnam said.

She possesses all of the qualifications Valley Regional’s board was looking for, including experience as a hospital CEO — Howard served as CEO of Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook, N.H. in the 1980s and ’90s — knowledge of critical access hospitals, willingness to work full time, an understanding of the health care market in the Twin States and strong relationships with “players” in the region, Putnam said.

“Peter’s done a great job already with the hospital,” Putnam said, referring to Wright. “(We) need someone to continue in the manner that Peter was.”

Howard’s focus will be to improve hospital operations and explore growth opportunities, the release said.

She will overlap with Wright for a period of a few weeks. His last day is March 8. He earned $273,835 in 2016, according to the hospital’s 990 tax filing.

Under Wright’s leadership, the 25-bed hospital has both added and cut services, and chipped away at its annual operating deficit, going from a loss of $5.4 million in fiscal year 2015 to a loss of $1.6 million in the fiscal year that ended in September. Valley Regional has an annual operating budget of about $42 million.

The small hospital also has deepened its relationship with D-H in recent years. Valley Regional uses D-H’s tele-emergency and tele-pharmacy programs, as well as various laboratory, surgical, cardiology and oncology services.

Once Howard starts, the search for a permanent successor to Wright will begin, Putnam said. Howard said she is not interested in the permanent post as she is enjoying retirement too much.

“Every day is Saturday,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.