Tomah Health CEO Derek Daly says he has been busy listening, learning and understanding the organization during his first four months on the job. “It really has met and exceeded my expectations,” Daly said of his time at Tomah Health. “I have known of this organization for years and it is well respected in the health care industry and I am very fortunate to be part of a great organization and work with such a great team.”
Daly took over the top administrative position at Tomah Health Aug. 15, replacing longtime hospital CEO Phil Stuart, who he acknowledged for the success of the organization. “Following Phil Stuart has simply been amazing,” said Daly. “The work that Phil and the team that’s been here has done is nothing short of extraordinary. I give him all the credit for everything that he has done for this organization.” Daly replaced Stuart who retired after 50 years in health care, including 27 years at Tomah Memorial Hospital and Tomah Health.
Before coming to Tomah Health, Daly served 5½ years as CEO of Blue Mountain Hospital District including its 25-bed critical access hospital (CAH) in John Day, Oregon, a rural health clinic, long-term care facility, home health and hospice agency, and ambulance service. Daly said he was “born a Badger” in Madison, Wisconsin, before later growing up in eastern South Dakota. He attended Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he received an undergraduate degree in Business Administration before obtaining his master’s degree in Health Administration from the University of Iowa. “I had known about Tomah Health for a few years, and growing up in the rural health industry and natural family ties to Wisconsin and the Midwest, this is like coming home,” Daly said of his decision to apply for the position. “When my wife, Nicole and I made the decision to come here, we made that decision for where we wanted to raise our son. So a big component of moving here was when we had our first son, Colin, October, and that really changed our perspectives and where we wanted to be.”
During his time at Tomah Health, Daly has been working through a 100-day plan that included listening, learning and understanding the organization. “This is a plan that has helped organize my orientation and onboarding to this organization,” Daly explained. “For me it is all about people. Health care is a very people-centric industry and because of that focus, I came in with a strategy that I am going to focus on people; first, second and third most.”
Daly said his schedule has been full of meetings with providers, staff and managers across the organization. “For me it has been an opportunity not to come in with my ideas and way of doing things, but to learn the amazing things that have been done here and come up to speed as quickly as possible.”
He also has met with key community leaders to build relationships with city, school, emergency services and area health care organizations. “I have learned from the individuals who have been here for decades so as we go forward with building those strategic plans, I have had conversations with people in our organization and key stakeholders in the community about what our health care needs have been; past, present and future.”
Daly said he has identified three main goals during his first year with the organization. “The first one is the stability and support of our people,” Daly explained. “Our employees and caregivers have been through a tremendous amount of stress and challenges brought on by the pandemic. Now is an important time for us to support our staff more than ever,” Daly said.
He said his second goal will focus on getting back to some normalcy and continuing to offer high quality care. “The last few years have represented the least normal operating years in the history of health care. Everything we are experiencing today, tomorrow and moving forward is going to be a new normal that comes with an inherited amount of challenges throughout the industry.”
Despite some negative reports of financial struggles in the industry, Daly was quick to present a positive forecast for Tomah Health. “The one positive thing I would say about Tomah Health, is that we have been pretty fortunate and insulated from some of those challenges. We have really grown during the pandemic, both in term of services, volumes and revenues for the organization. We really got through the pandemic in a very good way.”
He said his third goal will focus on meeting the future needs of the organization and community. “One thing that we are looking forward to is refreshing our strategic plan in 2023. It will be the first time since the COVID pandemic started that we are going through our every three year strategic plan to assess the current landscape and where we need to go to enhance access, services and quality for the residents and patients we serve.”
Daly said everyday has been a learning opportunity and a time to enjoy the community, which he now calls home. “My wife and I are absolutely thrilled to be here. We honestly have not experienced a welcome whether to Tomah or Tomah Health or the state of Wisconsin that we have in other places,” Daly said. “It has been amazing and we appreciate all of the support and friendships that we have received so far and look forward to participating and partnering in this community moving forward.”