North Valley Hospital welcomes new CEO to post

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Kevin Abel is excited to take the reins of North Valley Hospital. Abel was selected as the new CEO of the hospital in December, but just recently started working at the facility a few weeks go.

Abel comes to North Valley Hospital from Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics in Chelan, Washington, where he has served as chief executive officer since 2009. There, he led a health system consisting of five locations and 284 caregivers with a critical-access hospital, a chemical dependency clinic, a primary care clinic, specialty care clinics, an EMS agency, rehabilitation services and mental health services.

He said he was contacted by a recruiter for the North Valley position.

While Abel loves to fly fish, hike and ski, he said it was the people at North Valley that won him over and the Planetree philosophy of care at North Valley that centers around the patient.

Prior to his work at Lake Chelan, Abel worked at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon in the finance department. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s in business administration from Seattle University and a master’s in education from Seattle University as well. He grew up outside of Bend. At one point, he was considering a teaching career, he said, before getting into the hospital administration field. He has been a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. He and his wife, Chris, have three children, two teenage boys and a girl, 12.

He sees opportunities for sharing resources with partner Kalispell Regional Medical Center, particularly in laboratory and clinical work. North Valley is a critical-access hospital like Lake Chelan. The hospital currently has about 400 employees.

On the local front, Abel said he has experience with negotiating rates for self-insured groups.

The Columbia Falls School District is self insured and will soon enter negotiations with both KRMC an NVH for healthcare for next year. Abel said a team, including himself, would be the negotiators on NVH’s behalf.

The District in the past has had a good relationship with North Valley, but KRMC negotiations have proven more frustrating, school officials have noted.

In the broader scope, Abel said the Affordable Care Act has been good for hospitals.

“In general, having a greater insured population is good for hospitals,” he said.

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