NORWAY — Timothy Churchill, the longtime president and CEO of Western Maine Health, is set to retire Dec. 31.

Timothy Churchill, president and CEO of Western Maine Health, is retiring Dec. 31 after a four-decade career in health care administration. Submitted photo

Born in Lewiston and raised in Waterville, Churchill began his career in health care administration four decades ago when he was named CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

He has also served as president of the Osteopathic Medical Center of Philadelphia and president of Windber Medical Center in Windber, Pennsylvania.

Churchill, who earned a bachelor’s degree  from King’s College in Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Maine. assumed the top job at Western Maine Health and its flagship, Stephens Memorial Hospital, in 1996.

His return to Maine was not a move he had planned, he said, but the CEO’s position at Western Maine Health was an opportunity he could not refuse.

And 23 years after returning to his home state, Churchill is ready to retire.

Pat Cook, who was hired by Churchill to run Stephens Memorial Hospital’s nursing department, came to Norway under similar circumstances. She credits Churchill with creating a culture that supported all employees and made the hospital a good place to work. Cook moved to Maine in 1999, having worked at larger hospitals in Lawrence and Framingham, Massachusetts. She retired in 2016.

“I wanted to spend my career in a setting that was supportive, but not so big that hospital leaders didn’t know their employees,” Cook said. “Tim is on a first-name basis with everyone. There is no ‘Mr. Churchill.’ He is trustworthy, he understands his staff. Working at Stephens was the most-positive experience of my career.”

Under Churchill’s leadership, Western Maine Health expanded several times, bringing new resources and technologies to Norway and surrounding communities. The most integral happened in 1999 when the organization made the move to join MaineHealth.

“Joining the MaineHealth system was essential to our success,” Churchill said.  “Our affiliation made us a partner with one of the nation’s top integrated health care systems.  It has allowed us to bring specialty services not often available to rural communities.”

Andrea Burns, former hospital auxiliary president and trustee, agrees.

“Tim’s negotiation with MaineHealth to create Stephens’ affiliation was a turning point for the hospital,” Burns said. “The partnership provided care resources that were not available before. It was his leadership that has advanced the hospital to where it is today.”

In 2010, Stephens Memorial Hospital was designated as a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), qualifying it to receive cost-based Medicare reimbursements. This move benefited patients and the hospital alike during a period of recession.

“The certification assisted us in keeping financially strong during challenging times,” Churchill said.

Most recently, Churchill facilitated the Maine Track program, a partnership between Stephens Memorial Hospital, Maine Medical Center and Tufts Medical School to address the shortage of doctors in Maine, provide financial assistance to aspiring medical students from Maine and to develop an innovative curriculum focused on community-based education.

“We were the first site for the Maine Track model,” Churchill said. “While it was primarily designed to advance in the education of a new generation of physicians, many students have embraced the experience and returned to rural communities to practice primary care medicine.”

Churchill’s influence on rural health in Maine was not limited to Oxford Hills. In 2016, he was named CEO of the Franklin Community Health Network, first on an interim basis and then permanently. His impact on the Farmington organization also ran deep. He is credited with improving the organization’s financial performance and overseeing its respective integration into the larger MaineHealth system and implementation of a new electronic medical record platform.

Both Stephens Memorial and Franklin Memorial hospitals have been recognized on The Leapfrog Group’s list of top rural medical providers. The Leapfrog Group is an independent, nonprofit organization that publishes annual surveys measuring hospital safety and performance.

Such national recognition of the hospitals was, in part, the result of Churchill’s high standards, according to those who worked with him.

“It doesn’t matter that Stephens is a small hospital,” Cook said. “Tim wanted the very best staff with high levels of knowledge, experience and insights. I have a Ph.D., and it was a requirement for getting the job.”

“As a leader, Tim has set the standard across our system,” Rich Petersen, president of MaineHealth said in a statement when Churchill took over leadership of Franklin Community Health Network. “This is especially true when it comes to attracting and retaining top-notch physicians and other team members. People really enjoy working for the organizations he leads.”

“Tim empowers people,” Burns said. “He is good to work for. He has always maintained an open door policy to discuss any issues relating to the hospital.”

Cook recalled watching Churchill’s dedication to his staff during her early days at the hospital.

“When I joined Stephens, we were going into ‘Y2K’ with a new computer system,” she said. “Everyone was very nervous about the switch from 1999 to 2000 and what might happen. I volunteered to come to the hospital at midnight, to support employees working overnight.

“Tim came in too. That is his typical approach. He would not ask anyone to do anything he wouldn’t [do] himself. It ended up being a great night. And it was a good system. Everything held together.”

Three years into her own retirement, Cook said the Stephens Memorial Hospital staff will miss Churchill — especially his humor.

“He has an amazing sense of humor,” she said. “He tells serious jokes, in a way that catches people off guard. But he is also easy to talk to. Just an honest straight shooter who any employee can share issues with.”

Churchill said he knows his retirement will be bittersweet.

“I am going to miss this incredible team here at Western Maine Health,” he said. “They put their patients and their communities first, and it really shows. This is an exceptional community, and I have been very fortunate to be part of it.”

Andrea (Andy) Dodge Patstone will succeed Churchill as president of Western Maine Health. She has served as the organization’s chief operating officer since 2018, having joined MaineHealth in 2011, first serving as vice president of strategic initiatives and then as senior vice president of system development.

Franklin Community Health Network has named Trampas D. Hutches as its next president. Previously, Hutches was president and CEO of Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke, Colorado.


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