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Bartos retires after 30 years at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital

John Bartos, CEO of Marcus Daly Hospital in Hamilton, will step down in June after 30 years at the helm. Michael Howell photo.

By Michael Howell

 

Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital CEO John Bartos has publicly announced his plan to retire in June after 30 years at the helm. Bartos actually has about 43 years of experience working as a hospital CEO. His first job as a hospital administrator, at 23 years of age, was in White Sulphur Springs where he worked for five years. Then he moved on to become CEO of the hospital in Columbus for eight years. Then, after exploring options, he applied to serve as the CEO for Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton in the fall of 1983.

Asked what he remembered most about that time, his eyes lit up and he said, “That’s interesting,” and went on to recount a recent ride he took with his wife. They have been travelling up and down Highway 93 three times a week for his dialysis treatments and, on the way back recently, he was looking at Como Peaks and the Bitterroots and said to her that he remembered when he first came to the Bitterroot.

“I recall looking at Como and the Bitterroots and realizing how fortunate I am, and nothing has changed,” said Bartos. “When the board told me I was the next CEO, I was truly excited.”

Bartos said he has had a fabulous career in Hamilton and is proud of the health care system that he has helped develop over the last 30 years. He said when he started there were only eight physicians. Now there are 50. Then there were 80 employees. Today the hospital has 545 employees.

“My gross budget here in 1983 was $2 million. Net payroll alone this past year was $2.6 million,” said Bartos.

“But what’s more important,” he said, “is the team that we have been able to develop and grow…We truly are a community hospital today, from where we were 30 years ago.”

He said what he told his physicians and employees was, “If it’s your mother in that bed, how would you want her treated?”

Bartos said the future looks good for the hospital as well.

“Fortunately, the population is not stagnant and it’s not decreasing. It’s slowly increasing. It’s also a retirement community and the older we get, the more health care we need.” He said the hospital was not dependent on city or county tax dollars for support.

“We are financially viable and we are recognized as a quality institution by the awards we have received.” Three in a row over the last three years and five total.

“That’s our mission and our culture and that’s what I’m going to miss, the people, the team,” said Bartos.

Asked what the biggest challenge the new CEO will be facing might be, Bartos said it was working through the intricacies of the requirements for reimbursements the hospital receives from Medicare, Medicaid and commercial payers.

“Health care is changing from a volume to a value-based program,” he said. “The future of health care is going to be trying to keep people in their homes and out of the hospital.” He said it doesn’t mean that hospitals won’t be around.

“We are going to have surgery,” said Bartos. “We are going to have ERs. We are going to have Imaging. But the focus is to address chronic care and making sure that people are being monitored and watched to keep them out of the hospital until they are acutely ill.”

The second biggest challenge facing the hospital, according to Bartos, is recruitment and retention of employees and physicians because of regional competition for the employees. And you can add to that the challenge of keeping abreast with current technology.

“Whether it’s clinical, health, or whatever, these technological challenges are coming up,” said Bartos.

Regarding his own retirement, he said, “You wish you could keep working, but there’s a point where you have to make the decision that it’s time to go.”

“I can tell you from the neck up I feel like I’m 41 years old. But from my chin down, I’m older than sixty-six. But I have to be careful about it being the right time. My first board chairman, Elmer Hanson, gave me a plaque that said, ‘Everyone is indispensable’ and it pointed out that the void would be filled, and I remembered that.”

Bartos said that Marcus Daly was one of the ideal hospitals to work in and he was proud of what had been accomplished.

He didn’t enumerate the accomplishments but they include building a new Emergency Room facility, a Rehabilitation Center, a new Intensive Care Unit, a Birthing Center, a Home Health and Hospice center, three care centers in outlying communities and an ongoing ambulance service.

“We are proud of what we’ve done,” said Bartos. He said that thirty years ago the hospital was known as a band-aid station “and had a horrible word in front of it.”

“Today,” he said, “people are saying, ‘we want you to take care of us. We don’t want to go to Missoula. Can’t you take care of us here?’ It’s taken us 30 years to get there, but we’ve gotten there. And I use the word ‘we’. I truly do.”

Bartos said when his first board hired him 30 years ago, they told him that when he left he had to make sure the hospital was going to be here for another 20 years, “and I think I have accomplished that. I think we are financially stable. We are vibrant. We are growing. We have excellent medical staff. We provide service as a community hospital. We have people engaged in the hospital and we’ve been successful. Knock on wood.”

And where is Bartos headed from here?

“As my wife said, I’m coming home. I’ll have time for my grandkids, my family and my wife. I raise a few head of steers. Play with them a little bit. Garden a little bit. And then drop a hook in the water and see if I catch a walleye,” he said.

“I moved here to enjoy it,” he said, “so I’m going to enjoy it.”

And no doubt, from time to time, he will look up at Como Peaks and the Bitterroots and realize once again how fortunate he is to be here.

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