Harry Jasper said goodbye to those gathered at the Southern Humboldt Community Clinic on Jan. 27 in a warm ceremony recognizing his seven years of service as Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District.
But, things were less festive when Jasper was first hired.
Attending the ceremony and explaining the economic environment during Jasper’s first days was former Southern Humboldt Healthcare District board member Mike Thompson, who was on the hiring committee that first brought Jasper on board.
“One of the early problems he had was with the earthquake retrofit standards that all hospitals (in the state) had to abide by. We hired Harry in January, and that (coming) July 1 was the ‘drop dead’ date. If we had not satisfied the requirements of the state for the earthquake retrofit, the doors would have closed,” he said.
Thompson, off the board by then, remembers Jasper and board members getting “the shovel in the ground two or three days before the end date,” avoiding the mandated closure.
Also attending the farewell was John Clark, a former healthcare district Finance Committee member responsible for making financial recommendations to the district board.
“(Jasper) really turned this hospital around,” Clark said. “We were in the red, and now we are in the black. That’s the bottom line, that’s about all you need to say.”
In a short interview with the Redwood Times at the event, Jasper recounted his first days sitting with Paul “Buzz” Fish, the accounting department manager at the time.
“He was my right hand man in the finance department. We worked side-by-side, sometimes for very long hours.”
“My roles would shift in many ways, but Buzz stayed faithful (in his role),” continued Jasper. “He worked very diligently through the toughest years. I remember sitting down with him when we had no money in the bank, we had outstanding payables of $500,000, and we were trying to decide which vendors to pay and still make the (hospital district) payroll.”
Fish, who was not able to make the ceremony, was remembered by Jasper as “someone dedicated to this community, and who did the day-to-day accounting that was necessary to have reliable information, the kind needed to make high-level strategic decisions.”
Addressing the friends, colleagues, staff and board members gathered for his farewell, Jasper said that, “Seven years in this town has been a journey.”
“I met my new wife Splendor here, and we are both excited to live here and be a part of the community, but perhaps now in a different role,” he said.
Laughing, Jasper added “although more of an ‘off-Broadway’ role.”
Jasper said he found the role of a CEO a broader challenge than he faced in his previous 12 years working in health care finance. When he started in Southern Humboldt, he said he suddenly had to ask himself, “How could I lead in (my) CEO role to really allow a hospital and a community to be the healthiest possible.”
Explaining the broader principles, beliefs and skills Jasper believed were necessary for success in his work, he indicated that, “Nothing beats honesty and having the tough conversations about the business of health care. You have to recognize that you are balancing quality patient care, which is your service you deliver, with operational efficiency, as well as with this tricky thing called financial management. That’s the balancing act.”
But, according to Jasper, the success of the clinics and hospital “comes down to the people, the human relationships. Being honest, living your values, keeping your integrity, being competent in your role, being trustworthy and working as a team — that is what this health care district has reached, with the amazing leadership of our board.”