GAYLORD — Since Chris Squire joined Munson Healthcare Otsego Memorial Hospital in 2013 his role has expanded.
Last week Squire assumed the top post at the hospital (OMH) when he was named community president after serving as interim community president since May. He succeeds Tom Lemon who retired in April.
“My family and I have been committed to staying here long term. We enjoy everything the area has to offer,” he said.
Squire joined the hospital in 2013 as the vice president of professional and ancillary services. With the Munson Healthcare integration, his role increased to include responsibility for Munson Healthcare Charlevoix and Grayling Hospitals, along with Otsego Memorial Hospital.
Squire said all of the varied responsibilities he has performed since 2013 have prepared him for this position.
“Most importantly are the relationships that I have cultivated along the way, especially with those who have been here longer than me,” said Squire.
Squire said if you have any kind of job in the healthcare field these days, it’s been affected by the coronavirus.
“The virus isn’t going anywhere and we will continue to see outbreaks and surges like the one we are in right now,” he said. “It challenges our ICU (intensive care unit) capacity and access. We are struggling to keep beds open.”
COVID-19 has also taken a toll on the workforce at OMH like it has for just about every other hospital or healthcare facility in the country.
“One thing to remember is healthcare workers are not an unlimited resource. They experience fatigue like any other worker,” Squire said.
He said the emergency department (ED) and urgent care in particular, have seen demand explode beyond what is considered a normal level.
“Typically we have a volume (in EDs and urgent care) and we have exceeded those volumes by 20, 30 or even 40% on a daily basis,” Squire said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, OMH had to lay off some staff. Squire believes the hospital will now be able to maintain current staff levels.
“We are unlikely to change our existing staffing levels. If anything, we are looking to pull in additional staff,” he said.
Squire said the layoffs at the beginning were due in part to not being sure how the virus would ultimately affect operations and the inability to perform certain elective and outpatient procedures.
“We have learned a lot of lessons in the last 18 months and they tell us that we can safely provide a lot of outpatient and elective procedures while dealing with the virus,” said Squire. “I am confident there will be no further staff reductions.”
Physician recruitment is always a challenge for a rural hospital like OMH. Lemon focused on doctors with some kind of tie to either the state or to the area.
In addition to that, Squire wants to emphasize that while OMH is a rural facility, it is a full-service community hospital and that can be a selling point when recruiting doctors.
“We have radiology and laboratory services and we also have robotic surgery capabilities,” said Squire.
Full-service hospitals are vital to meeting the health-care needs of the communities they serve by providing a wide range of acute care and diagnostic services, supporting public health needs, and offering other community services to promote the health and well being of the community, according to the American Hospital Association.