The incoming chief executive officer of Kimball Health Services not only recognizes the challenges of being in charge of Kimball’s new $43 million hospital, she’s ready to meet them head-on.
“I am elated for the opportunity the Board of Directors has given me at KHS,” said Cassie Gasseling, who takes over as CEO Jan. 17. “We have a great team here who puts patient care first and I look forward to continuing to work with them in a leadership role.”
A Kansas State University graduate, Gasseling is a certified public accountant and worked 6½ years for a pair of large accounting firms in Topeka and Manhattan, Kan. Following a move with her family to Potter and a 6-year-long stint with Cabela’s, she started at KHS in May 2018 as a controller. She was promoted to chief financial officer a year later.
Gasseling believes her education and experience in financial management will be definite strengths to draw from, but not more so than the work ethic she developed on the family farm in western Kansas.
“Growing up on my family’s farm in rural Kansas helped me to learn at a young age that hard works pays off,” she said. “When you put in the time, effort and dedication to something, success can often be the result.”
The decision to move Gasseling from the chief financial officer’s job to CEO wasn’t without careful consideration, said Jim Cederburg, chairman of the KHS Board of Trustees.
“The board went through an interview process along with open and honest discussions, and each member underwent a great deal of thought and prayerful consideration in making the unanimous decision,” Cederburg said. “Cassie has proven to be a key employee in making Kimball Health Services one of the minority of Nebraska hospitals that is profitable. Her leadership and vision in analyzing what services we can and cannot provide profitably, plus our level of staffing in each department has made a significant difference to our bottom line. She will represent Kimball Health Services in a very professional manner.”
It’s often said that the three major pillars of any community are its hospital, the school system and churches. It’s a fact not lost on Gasseling, and she’s glad the new hospital will be completed ahead of expected growth related to the upcoming Clean Harbors expansion and missile replacement project.
"With the increasing population comes the need for increased healthcare services,” she said. “Having a new larger facility will help us to serve the growing population. We have outgrown our current facility and look forward to tripling our size just in time for the population growth Kimball will experience. We look forward to working with new patients and new businesses in every aspect of healthcare we can.”
Outgoing CEO Ken Hunter announced the upcoming leadership change to the hospital staff on Thursday.
“Cassie is the most qualified chief financial officer that we’ve ever had and is the person that has significantly improved both the billing process and our cash stream,” Hunter said. “Without her leadership in the billing and finance departments and her knowledge of bonds, banking and financing, the new hospital would have been unlikely.”
Cederburg had similar words of praise for Hunter, who is stepping down after 12 years as CEO.
“Ken has taken a hospital that was losing about a quarter million dollars annually to one that is profitable primarily by increasing services provided locally,” he said. “Without his leadership, we would not be building a new hospital today.”
At their meeting last week, Hunter told the Kimball County Commissioners that while KHS is on solid financial ground, continuing inflation, pressure from decreasing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and increasing staffing costs are posing real challenges for rural hospitals nationwide.
Gasseling doesn’t disagree.
“The healthcare industry is very challenging right now,” she said. “To help combat this, I believe that we, as a hospital, must become very cost-conscious. We must provide as many services to patients as we can, but also be able to do that at a cost that allows us to keep the doors of the hospital open. We must find staffing solutions that may be creative and unique but also help us keep the hospital staffed at necessary levels.”
Gasseling takes over at a time when the healthcare landscape in and around Kimball is about to change dramatically. The hospital staff is preparing to move from a 20,000 square foot, 1950’s era building to a state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot facility. Additional services will include an in-house MRI, in-house CT scanner, mammography, modern surgery and physical therapy services, larger inpatient rooms and critical updates to electrical, mechanical and broadband systems.
Haselden Construction Co, the Colorado-based general contractors, are on track to hand over the keys to the new building in late December. The new hospital is scheduled to open in middle to late January.
“It’s an exciting time for sure,” Gasseling said. “Having a new facility equipped with new technology and equipment will help us better provide services to our community. The increased services and size of the facility will help us keep healthcare at everyone’s doorstep. We want our patients and any new incoming residents to feel like they have everything they need right here in Kimball.”