By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Looking at the Husker decorations in Steve Lewis’ office, it’s not hard to tell the new Chase County Community Hospital CEO considers himself a Husker fanatic.
After living in Iowa since 2006, the Superior native said last week it’s good to be back home in the Big Red state. He won’t miss the ribbing he took from his Iowa friends after the Huskers lost to them last year.
Lewis began his duties as the new CEO on Monday, July 14, and hit the ground running.
His first major task centers on getting to know the staff.
“They have been very welcoming,” he said. “It’s humbling.”
What he’s seen so far is that the hospital has some really dedicated people on staff.
He sees that as one of the hospital’s major strengths.
“People really care about this hospital and want it to be successful,” he said.
He sees the same attitude amidst the community.
He seeks to build on that strength by providing top quality health care above and beyond expectations.
“We’ll be making a commitment to excellence and working hard on achieving that,” he added.
Needs and challenges
In addition to the role the hospital plays in providing quality health care to the county, Lewis said the hospital remains a vital economic engine as well, employing more than 100 people.
With the hospital being an economic driver, Lewis said the board and patrons will need to take a hard look at the facility going forward.
That represents an opportunity for the hospital and patron community as a whole.
With a facility at more than 35 years old, Lewis said the facility must be upgraded or a new facility considered.
The biggest obstacle with the existing facility, he said, is with the internal infrastructure of the building itself.
Lewis played a key role in the construction of a new wing at the Atlantic, Iowa hospital where he served as an assistant administrator. There, a new wing replaced a facility that was of a similar age as Chase County’s.
While this represents a big challenge, Lewis said it generates the opportunity to create a facility that can serve the generations of today and tomorrow.
Adding to medical staff
Lewis said adding doctors and other medical providers to the staff remains a must for the hospital to continue to serve and grow.
Right now, Dr. Jon Richman is the only full-time doctor on staff. He is being aided by a locum tenes brought on to the staff recently.
Having just one doctor and two mid-levels simply isn’t enough, he added.
Lewis said adding a doctor with obstetrical experience continues to be a priority.
When a couple starts a family and places their trust in the local doctors and hospital, that establishes a relationship that grows and develops over the years, Lewis said.
In addition, he said the hospital continues to look for specialists who will come to Imperial and do some surgical procedures here.
That type of revenue is key for the hospital’s budget, he noted.
Doing so will help strengthen the hospital’s financial condition, he said, which isn’t the strongest right now.
Lewis said planning for the future is a must. “I’m a planning kind of guy.” With good planning comes better focus on setting a direction for the future, he said.
Lewis brings a wide range of medical experience to the position.
He began his career in 1979 as a lab tech in Lincoln for two years and then spent the next 25 years at Tri-County Hospital in Lexington. He managed the lab for 13 years and was director of administrative services for 12.
Since 2006, he’s served as chief financial officer and one of five assistant administrators at Cass County Hospital in Atlantic, a county-seat city of 8,000.
He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and is a Fellow in the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
In addition to his career involvement, Lewis has also been active in his community and church.
While in Lexington, he participated in the Dawson County Leadership Program and was appointed to the Nebraska State College Board, serving as its president for two years.
In Atlantic, he was a member and officer of the county/city economic development board.
He is also active in his church, serving as an elder and is currently church treasurer. He has also taught Sunday School and does lay speaking.
He and Shirley have two grown sons.
Son Nathan and his wife, Julie, have a three-month old daughter and live in Scottsbluff, where he serves as regional director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Son Bryan and wife, Elizabeth, live in Sacremento, Calif., where he is a web designer and she works for Union Pacific Railroad.
His wife Shirley is the former city clerk in Lexington and presently works as the administrative assistant for the Southwest District of the Iowa United Methodist Church Conference.
She will be relocating to Imperial soon as the couple seeks to sell their home in Atlantic.