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Hofius steps down; takes metro area job

With the near $40 million hospital project well underway, Perham Memorial Hospital and Home Chief Executive Chuck Hofius has decided to move to his next career challenge.

"I want to do two careers, maybe three when all is said and done," said Hofius, who has led the Perham medical center and long-term health care facility to steady growth for more than 12 years. "I love the Perham community, and that is what makes it so hard...but it was the right time for a change."

In a surprise announcement near the end of the Dec. 2 Perham Memorial Hospital and Home meeting, the facility's chief executive officer submitted his resignation.

The announcement that Hofius has accepted a position at another facility came at the regular Hospital District board meeting.

"I am leaving with the confidence of knowing this facility is in the hands of a progressive, committed board, a strong management company, an outstanding medical staff, the best management team in the state, and a group of highly engaged, dedicated employees," wrote Hofius in his letter of resignation.

Hofius has accepted a position at the Volunteers of America as regional director of the organization's older adult services division, at the regional offices in Eden Prairie. His last day at PMHH will be Jan. 15.

With 12 nursing homes in Minnesota and Ohio, as well as home health care, assisted living and other services, Hofius said the position will be a new challenge, and will be a continuation of his "passion for older adult services."

The resignation comes only a few weeks since the construction crews broke ground on the new Perham hospital. The project is estimated at nearly $40 million, with opening projected for 2011.

Hofius and hospital officials said that the resignation will not have an impact on the building project.

There have been concerns expressed in the community regarding my departure just as the building project is underway, acknowledged Hofius.

"There have been comments that 'there must be more to the story,'" said Hofius. "But I want to assure the community that my ethics wouldn't allow me to leave if we were on a downside. The hospital is stronger than it has ever been in its history. It is the right time for a transition...the new hospital project will sail right through. And we have great people here on the team, and they will continue whether I'm here or not."

During his tenure at PMHH, Hofius has spearheaded three strategic planning cycles-and a fourth was about to start with the 2010 new year. It makes more sense, said Hofius, for a new chief executive to come in at the beginning of that cycle-rather than start it with one manager and conclude it with another.

"I have been blessed with rewarding opportunities during my tenure and have always greatly appreciated the support I have received," said Hofius. "I certainly feel a sense of sadness that I will be leaving before the new hospital is complete. I would not leave if I didn't firmly believe the strong board, MeritCare, and the local management will be able to continue to grow this organization and make it even better than it is today."

Volunteers of America-Minnesota is a nonprofit organization founded in 1896 which offers a wide variety of services for more than 27,000 children, adolescents and their families, older adults, students, persons with disabilities and special needs, and ex-offenders each year. It is one of the oldest, largest and most comprehensive human service organizations in the state and has more than 60 programs, 900 employees and 4,000 volunteers.

"MeritCare is in the process of looking for a replacement," said PMHH spokesperson Sue Von Ruden. "We will more than likely have an interim CEO while a search is done for a permanent replacement."

"It is with the deepest regrets the Board of Trustees accepts Chuck's resignation," said Kathy Hemmelgarn, PMHH board chair. "Chuck's vision, leadership, and tireless commitment have been the guiding light by which PMHH has become a respected and progressive organization. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we wish Chuck the best in his new career and thank him for all he has accomplished."

Hemmelgarn echoes Hofius' assurance his resignation will not affect the future of the new hospital project. "During his time at PMHH, Chuck has developed a talented and extremely competent team of leaders who will continue his vision to have the best health care continuum in the area."

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Chuck the last 12-and-a-half years," said Hemmelgarn. "He has provided excellent leadership for PMHH and it has been exciting to observe the growth that has occurred in Perham.  With that, I am also happy that he has another opportunity that provides him with additional experiences and challenges."

Among the accomplishments during his tenure was the grand opening of the new nursing home in 2006; a three-year, $14 million construction project. The facility, with its accompanying care model transformation, gained the Perham facility national attention.

Hofius was selected as the 2006 Administrator of the Year by the Minnesota Hospital and Home Association. He was recognized at their conference in February, 2007.

Prior to coming to Perham, he was an assistant administrator at St. Mary's Regional Health Center in Detroit Lakes, from 1992-97. From 1989-1992, he was administrator at a Lutheran Health Systems facility in Enderlin, North Dakota.

According to Paulette Amundson, MeritCare's Executive Partner of Regional Services, the first step will be to solidify interim leadership and to guarantee that will be in place by Jan. 15, with a permanent replacement within 120 days of Hofius' departure.