Fossum plans to retire in ’18

Ely hospital CEO moving on after nearly 20 years on the job

by Tom Coombe -

The typical hospital administrator lasts about four years at one facility.
When John Fossum cleans out his desk and leaves Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital early next year, he’ll have lasted five times beyond the norm.
Fossum confirmed this week that he plans to retire, effective Feb. 15, 2018, ending a nearly 20-year stint as the Ely hospital’s chief executive officer.
In two decades at the helm, Fossum has overseen a series of changes at the hospital, from the Ely clinic’s move to the hospital campus shortly after his arrival to a more recent remodeling and modernization initiative.
A few months shy of his 64th birthday, the longtime administrator said Wednesday timing is right to move on.
“We want to see our grandkids play hockey and baseball,” said Fossum, who lives in Ely with his wife Pam. “We haven’t seen enough of that.”
Fossum had earlier notified hospital board members of his attention, and the news became public Saturday, during the hospital’s 60th birthday celebration (see related story) at Whiteside Park.
Sue Edgington, who chairs the hospital’s board of directors, credited Fossum with “taking our hospital from the 20th to the 21st century.”
Fossum came to Ely after six years leading the hospital at Madison, a small community in southwestern Minnesota.
Under his watch, the hospital campus expanded to accommodate the opening of Essentia Health’s clinic.
Fossum’s tenure has been marked by a series of changes, all tied to the evolution of the health care industry and its impact on small-town hospitals.
Both Ely’s nursing home and ambulance service were separated from the hospital’s operation, and Fossum spearheaded changes in the hospital’s governance and ownership set-up, in an effort to better protect the hospital’s assets and the community in the event hospital operations are one day assumed by a larger health care entity.
More recently, Ely-Bloomenson completed a major renovation effort, which included upgrades to the emergency room, more modern hospital rooms, and moves that put physical and occupational therapy on the main floor while the business operation went to the facility’s lower level.
Fossum said he didn’t expect to work in Ely for 20 years, but is happy that’s how it worked out.
“Ely’s been my career now,” said Fossum. “I’m going to definitely miss it. There are just great people, great staff, a great team of leaders.”
Edgington said EBCH has begun the search for a new chief executive officer, and the transition is likely to begin early next year.
Fossum said he is hopeful a new CEO is on board by January, allowing him time to work with and brief the new administrator for a week or two before exiting and making use of some unused vacation time.
“If needed I’ll be back for a week in February,” he said.
The Fossums have two children and six grandchildren, who live in the Twin Cities and Marshall in southwestern Minnesota.