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Adirondack Health has a good leader

September 10, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

From our perspective as informed outsiders, Chandler Ralph has been level-headed, responsible, fair and trustworthy, which is the kind of person you want leading the area's largest private employer and quite possibly its most important public service.

We thank her and wish her well as she plans for retirement next year. Adirondack Health announced Sept. 2 that she will step down around the time it expects to break ground on a $30 million pair of buildings: a medical fitness facility in Lake Placid and a new surgical wing in Saranac Lake. It's yet another big project for her, a remarkable 20-year record of growth to keep up with the times that also includes a huge new wing on Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, local clinics, an expansion of service to Tupper Lake, and new bariatric, behavioral health, dialysis and mobile dental services.

She has also had to preside over many tough decisions, including layoffs, cutting emergency department hours in Lake Placid and now selling the Uihlein nursing home. We also remember her having to handle the aftermath of a doctor operating on the wrong knee of a patient, and eventually losing his license because it wasn't his first wrong-site surgery. And before she came here, she had to lead Mercy Hospital in Watertown through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Those are the kind of messes leaders have to clean up, and Ms. Ralph has handled each as well as we imagine they could be handled. She has always been honest and direct with us. While she clearly has natural leadership qualities, we haven't seen her lord it over anyone.

It obviously isn't easy to keep a rural health care network going, and these last few years have been particularly hard, what with an aging population, a federal overhaul of health insurance, unreliable reimbursement from public and private sources, wave after wave of health care innovations, a crisis in the nursing home industry and a trend toward preventative care that, while it makes people healthier, makes them need less hospitalization. As health care gets better, people's expectations rise, and while that's good, it can also be a challenge for a small-town hospital to meet those expectations.

Adirondack Health consistently exceeds national and state standards for patient care and safety, based on independent evaluations. At the same time, bigger hospitals have technology and techniques ours lacks. As has always been the way, non-wealthy health care providers must pour on the kindness and attentiveness while working to upgrade and doing the best they can with what they have.

We think Adirondack Health does this well under Ms. Ralph's leadership. We know quite a few people who drive to Adirondack Medical Center from other parts of the North Country, primarily served by other hospitals, for the care that they get here. That's a big vote of confidence. The same goes for all the many letters to the editor we publish every year, praising AMC staff for their wonderfully kind, attentive care. We've also experienced that whenever we or our loved ones use these services.

It seems that Adirondack Health punches above its weight, and that's appropriate for a community like Saranac Lake, which has been a health care hub since its founding as a center for curing from tuberculosis. "Excellent care, close to home," to quote an old AMC slogan, is the doing of many hundreds of people, from doctors and nurses to physical plant staff and accountants, but today we want to thank Chandler Ralph for her significant role.



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