Mercy Medical Center names its new CEO

Kentucky administrator wants to keep hospital part of community fabric

Gessel Enlarge photo


Mercy Regional Medical Center’s board of directors has hired a new CEO, Tom Gessel. He will take over the post from retiring CEO Kirk Dignum about mid-October.

Gessel told The Durango Herald he is looking forward to his family joining the Durango community.

In a telephone interview, Gessel said he is coming to a hospital that “performs very well, according to almost every ‘metric’” that assess how well a system is run. Metrics measure such areas as patient satisfaction, length of stay, time in waiting rooms and similar gauges.

Gessel had never been to Durango before his visit for the job interview, but he said it is somewhat similar in feeling to the area he lives in now.

Gessel served as CEO for six years at Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., and currently is president of a health-care management company, also in Louisville.

Gessel said the area he lives in near Louisville has some of the qualities of Durango. These include outdoor recreation, horse country and the feel of a small community, among others.

“I get a real sense that folks (in Durango) are committed to the community,” he said.

Gessel will spend much of his first 90 days on the job getting to know community members and hospital staff. He will use his 24 years of experience in health-care administration and management to evaluate the information he receives during this period.

In fact, he said his experience includes his role as CEO of a 300-bed Catholic hospital. His current job has helped him get information about Mercy and Centura Health System, which owns Mercy, Gessel said. That information convinced him the role of CEO at Mercy would be a good position.

Gessel said one focus for him as CEO is Mercy’s role as an advocate for community health – to “be a part of the fabric of the community,” he said.

Gessel also said hospitals need to figure out how to fit into the transformation of health care.

For instance, he said, there need to be new ways of dealing with patients with chronic illnesses with different kinds of intervention that help reduce or even prevent more problems.

Those changes include how those and other types of health care are financed, Gessel said.

Gessel’s experience includes CEO and president of Caritas Health Services, a two-facility, 747-bed health system in Kentucky. Caritas is a member of Catholic Health Initiatives, as is Mercy.

Gessel earned a master’s degree in health administration from Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Akron in Ohio, according to a news release.

He also is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and has served on boards for many community and professional organizations.