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Valley Regional Hospital CEO Taking Job in Maine

  • Peter Wright, CEO of Valley Regional Hospital, is photographed in his office at the hospital in Claremont, N.H. on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. (Valley News - Libby March) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2019

Claremont — The CEO of Valley Regional Hospital plans to step down in March in order to take a job in Maine.

Peter Wright, the 46-year-old who has served as president and CEO of the Claremont hospital for the past six years, will become president of two hospitals that are part of Lewiston, Maine-based Central Maine Healthcare, Valley Regional announced in a news release on Friday.

“I’m so proud of where Valley Regional is today,” Wright said in a phone interview.

He lauded the work of his approximately 400 full- and part-time employees, as well as the financial recovery the hospital has been able to achieve in recent years.

Valley Regional, which has an annual operating budget of about $42 million, has steadily chipped away at its annual operating deficit, he said, noting that it has gone 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.

It’s not just one thing that has led to this improvement, but a collection of things, he said.

“Change takes time,” he said.

During Wright’s tenure — which began in 2013, when he came to Claremont from Littleton Regional Hospital, where he served as chief operating officer — the 25-bed Valley Regional has both added and cut services. For example, it opened an urgent care clinic in 2015 and then ceased operating a home care and hospice department in 2016, handing off that service to Lake Sunapee Region Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice.

Other cost-saving efforts have included increasing collaboration with Dartmouth-Hitchcock and other area hospitals. Wright, himself a D-H employee who works for Valley Regional through a management services contract, said Valley Regional also works with D-H through tele-emergency and tele-pharmacy programs. In addition, various laboratory, surgical, cardiology and oncology services also are provided by D-H, he said.

“I see that relationship becoming closer, stronger and more intimate as time goes on,” Wright said.

Wright — who declined to provide his salary information, but earned approximately $266,000 in 2015, according to the hospital’s 990 tax filing — served as senior director of planning, development and medical group operations at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, Vt., before going to Littleton.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Lyndon State College — now Northern Vermont University — as well as a master’s degree in administration from Saint Michael’s College and a master’s in health care delivery science from Dartmouth College.

New London Hospital CEO Bruce King, who is similarly employed by D-H, said he will miss Wright.

As leaders of two critical access hospitals that are about 20 miles apart, the two frequently collaborated, King said.

For example, New London rents space to Valley Regional in its Newport clinic for primary care providers.

Whether patients see New London-employed or Valley Regional-employed providers, “we are here for you,” King said.

Together, area hospitals have teamed up to provide school-based immunizations and to evaluate community health care needs, King said.

Beyond other health care providers, Wright also has worked to build relationships within the community.

As community needs have cropped up, he has worked with city leaders to effect change.

“Peter Wright has been a key stakeholder on a number of community-wide health initiatives to include the prevention of childhood lead poisoning and peer recovery support,” Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett said in a Friday email.

Wright has collaborated with city officials to expand treatment and services to people struggling with drug addiction.

The hospital recently began offering medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction in its emergency room and is in the process of working with community partners to reopen a needle exchange, which would be a place for current intravenous drug users to get sterile needles and to safely dispose of used ones, Wright said.

Work continues on the hospital’s efforts to convert its 3,600-square-foot former birthing center into an inpatient treatment center for addiction or mental illness, Wright said.

The hospital has “only one shot to get at this, so we want to make sure we understand really what the market is,” he said.

Former State Rep. Raymond Gagnon, D-Claremont, who left office last year, said Wright has been known to reach out to legislators about pending legislation.

“I hope his successor is as competent and engaged,” Gagnon said.

While Wright emphasized the work he’s done with the community, he also said that it will continue without him.

The “CEO isn’t the be-all and end-all of what happens here,” he said.

Though he will spend his working days in Maine beginning on March 11, Wright will not completely leave Claremont.

He and his wife, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Karen Fay Clements, plan to keep their house in Claremont and she plans to continue to work at DHMC, he said.

“It’s not unusual for couples like us to be at times in two different locations,” Wright said. “We make it work.”

Valley Regional trustees plan to announce an interim leadership plan before Wright’s departure, and soon will begin a search for a permanent successor.

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