The 58-year-old local hospital executive wasn’t talking about an upcoming spring vacation. Felix plans to retire Feb. 28 after 14 years as chief executive officer of Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, capping a 41-year career in the health care profession.
Felix, who went to work in a hospital washing respiratory therapy equipment at the age of 17 in 1973 after graduating from high school in Ponca City, Okla., said he has thoroughly enjoyed working in the profession and was honored to have served as CEO of Ransom Memorial Hospital. Felix announced his plans for early retirement to the hospital’s board of trustees at their meeting Tuesday.
Keith Gaeddert, a member of the board of trustees who served as its chair when Felix was hired in May 2000, said Felix’s retirement announcement came as a bit of a surprise to the board and that he would be sorely missed.
“The hospital’s losing a great leader,” Gaeddert said Wednesday. “I‘m sure it’s going to be the hospital’s loss and a gain for Larry because he won’t have quite the headaches of the new health care law and the problems it’s causing in the industry today. He will be hard to replace.”
John Coen, board of trustees member, said the hospital is one of the community’s strongest organizations, and that Larry has been a very positive influence on the hospital and a strong community supporter. Coen said he was glad to hear Felix planned to remain in the community.
Felix confirmed his plans to remain in Ottawa.
“I’ve been looking forward to early retirement, traveling and spending more time with my family and pursuing hobbies and volunteer work,” Felix said. “I’m not going to work somewhere else, or go anywhere else. Other than doing some traveling, I’m staying in Ottawa. This is my home.”
“I wanted to see the hospital through its construction [renovation project] and that was just completed with its new MRI unit,” Felix said. “We now have a strategic plan that goes through 2016, and I wanted to see the hospital through its three-year Joint Commission accreditation process, which was completed in December.”
The hospital went through a multi-phase, $9 million renovation project that began in November 2009. RMH was able to complete the work without taking on any debt, hospital officials noted.
Felix also wanted to see the hospital through what he knew would be a tough budgeting process in 2014, he said.
On Monday, Felix told U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran on the Kansas Republican’s visit to the hospital that rising costs associated with health care reforms brought on by the Affordable Care Act and other regulatory initiatives forced him for the first time to submit an annual budget to his board of trustees with a “huge” projected operating loss, to the tune of more than $1 million.
“In the last decade, we’ve improved facilities and equipment without acquiring debt, so I feel like we are in as good a position as we can be to weather this, but I’m concerned not only about this place, but for all hospitals,” Felix told Moran.
On Wednesday, Felix said, “With the costs associated with health care reform, I knew trying to produce a budget this year was going to be difficult, and I wanted to see it through.”
The hospital has continued to enhance its ability to serve the community — with excellent facilities, a broad scope of services and physician specialities — not to mention the quality of the employees, Felix said.
“We have a wonderful staff,” he said.
Felix said the board has asked him to help select his successor, and that he would be happy to assist with that search.
The board plans to meet Tuesday to discuss how it wants to initiate the search for Felix’s successor, Coen said.
“I have nothing but the highest praise for what Larry has done and wish him all the best in his retirement,” Coen said. “God bless him for what he has done for this hospital and this community.”
Herald staff writer Abby Eckel contributed to this article.