New CEO begins at North Valley

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Kevin Abel is the new CEO of North Valley Hospital. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

When Kevin Abel began working in health care he was looking to replicate work he’d done before in the nonprofit world.

“I was looking for other opportunities to be part of something larger than myself,” he said.

Today Abel has 18 years of health care experience that he brings to his new role as CEO at North Valley Hospital. He began in the job at the beginning of April.

Most recently he served at Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics since 2009. At the Chelan hospital, Abel led a health system consisting of five locations and 284 caregivers with a critical access hospital, a chemical dependency clinic, a primary care clinic, specialty care clinics, an EMS agency, rehabilitation services and mental health.

“It was similar to North Valley in that it is a critical care access hospital, but it was a public hospital,” Abel said. “Many of those same services are here at North Valley.”

The Whitefish hospital Board of Directors made the selection to hire Abel in December and it was ratified by the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Board of Trustees.

Abel said he was recruited into the position at North Valley and was drawn to Whitefish by its location. He enjoys fly fishing, hiking and skiing.

“This is a beautiful location and is a great location for recreational opportunities,” he said.

Once he visited North Valley, he was struck by the quality of the hospital staff and the Planetree philosophy, which is a model of health care that focuses on providing patient-centered care and creating a healing environment.

Now a few weeks on the job at North Valley, Abel says while he still has much to learn and is still getting to know the hospital he continues to be impressed. He has been making the rounds at North Valley, as well as at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

“Clinically we do excellent work here,” he said. “I’m excited about the many good things that are going on here. We’re looking at ways to improve service going forward.”

He points to two highlights, North Valley’s new 3-D mammography machine that allows for improved breast screening and the implementation of telepathology, which is allowing for analyzing pathology data more quickly using telecommunications technology.

Roughly two years ago North Valley joined Kalispell Regional Medical Center and The HealthCenter in operating under the Kalispell Regional Healthcare System umbrella.

Abel said such affiliations are common place in the health care industry. He was part of a similar affiliation while working in Bend, Oregon.

“Affiliations are happening all across the country,” he said. “They provide for the best practices to meld into one region and improve access to services. It can be more convenient for patients and highly beneficial to the community.”

Abel has a background in health care finance, quality, facilities, human resources, marketing, contract negotiations, board relations and strategic planning, according to North Valley.

Prior to joining Lake Chelan Community Hospital, Abel previously worked at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, for Seattle University and Comerica Bank. He had degrees from Seattle University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Abel is married to wife, Chris, and has three children. His family will be joining him in Whitefish after the end of the school year.

He says he has already been meeting with other Whitefish leaders and is looking froward to getting to know the community more, noting that in Chelan he was heavily involved in the community with the Rotary Club and as a Boy Scout leader.

“I want to invite members of the community to come and talk to me,” he said.

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