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Ketchikan hospital CEO resigns
Pat Branco


Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan Medical Center’s top executive announced Tuesday that he is resigning, effective Aug. 13 after 11 years on the job.

Pat Branco, chief executive officer for the hospital owned by the city but operated by the Catholic nonprofit PeaceHealth, has accepted a job as president and CEO of community hospitals for Duluth, Minn.-based Essentia Health System.

"My portion of the job will be in Idaho," Branco said in an interview Tuesday. In his new position, Branco will oversee two hospitals, eight clinics and four physical therapy centers in central Idaho.

He said he learned about the job offer on Monday, and still wasn’t sure where he was going to live, as he will be overseeing medical facilities in several communities.

"That’s the dilemma," he said.

In his resignation letter, Branco wrote, "The difficult part will be leaving Ketchikan Medical Center. My work here has been the very best professional and personal experience of my life."

In a Tuesday interview, Branco further described his feelings about leaving Ketchikan after more than a decade.

"Awful. Awful," he said. "It’s very difficult to say goodbye to a place you love."

Still, Branco said he took the job for a few reasons. One of them?

"Roads," he joked before saying, "It’s mostly the (professional) opportunity."

Branco’s 11-year tenure in Ketchikan was characterized by a number of accomplishments. Gov. Sean Parnell named him to the Alaska Health Care Commission in 2010. He has served as the Alaska delegate to the American Hospital Association’s Regional Policy Board.

In 2012, the American Hospital Association named him a "Grassroots Champion" for his work as a patient and community hospital advocate.

Branco also oversaw the transition of Ketchikan Medical Center’s federal designation from "acute care hospital" to "critical access hospital."

"That was some hard work," he said. The change meant that the hospital was able to earn more revenue, according to a hospital statement. Ketchikan Medical Center has been named one of the nation’s top 100 critical access hospitals in 2012 and 2013.

One of Branco’s largest — and most recent — accomplishments was helping to secure $15 million in state funding for a multi-million dollar, multi-phase Ketchikan Medical Center expansion project.

The Alaska Legislature earmarked that money for the first phase of the project, and City of Ketchikan voters will decide whether to support a $43 million bond proposition to finance the rest at the Oct. 1 municipal election.

Though the renovation hasn’t begun yet, Branco said he was confident that the expansion would become a reality.

"I felt as though I couldn’t leave until we got this last step from the governor signing (the $15 million appropriation)," he said. "I don’t need to be here for the ribbon-cutting."

Branco said he was sad to leave but remained optimistic.

"I wake up every day excited to get to work, to get to the hospital. I have no regrets," he said. He added that it would be nice to be "somewhat closer" to family.

He offered his thanks to "every individual in this community for having made this a special time in my life."

In the next two months, Branco will work with PeaceHealth and the hospital’s governing board to find an interim replacement, as well as a long-term one, according to a hospital statement.