Washington State Magazine

Summer 2005

Summer 2005

In This Issue...


Book Season: Washington State love its literature :: In a report released last summer, the National Endowment for the Arts warned that literary reading has declined over the last 20 years. Scary stuff, huh? So we did our own informal survey of faculty, students, and alums. Their response? Read on!

Shock Physics: Power, Pressure, and People :: After the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, the U.S. determined that staying ahead in the arms race would require the best scientists and the best weapons. A new federal funding model emerged, channeling money into universities around the country for research and the training of the next generation of national scientists. By the late 1950s, WSU had started on shock-wave research.

Bear Bones: A Murder Mystery :: It must have been easy to drop the body into this part of Pullman, a section that sees so little traffic. The old county road was research land where hardly anyone but the groundskeepers ventured. But somebody had an ugly secret to hide.


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: Birth, Death & Architecture :: Architecture professor Paul Hirzel wanted to push his students out of their mindsets. So he asked them to design a single building for both the beginning and the end of life: a funeral home/birthing center. }


:: FIELD NOTES:In Search of the Wild Chickpea

:: FOOD AND FORAGE:Asparagus

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: One-on-one: A chapter from Home Stand :: A chapter from Home Stand: Growing Up in Sports, a memoir by James McKean '68, '74 about growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the late '50s and early '60s. }


Cover: After 54 years of diligence, Nature Boy takes a break from the west face of Holland Library for some beach and reading time with Seattle's Hammering Man. Illustration by David Wheeler.

Gordon McLean '67, '73


Gordon McLean '67, '73

The Hospital Doctor

by | © Washington State University

When the elderly couple moved into the nursing home in Tonasket, one of their main concerns was who would take care of their chickens. Gordon C. McLean ('67 Ag. Econ. '73 M.A. Speech), administrator of the North Valley Hospital and Nursing Home, volunteered.

Listening to people and finding solutions has been his forte during a 30-year career in hospital administration. Over the past two decades, he's breathed new life into healthcare facilities in rural eastern Washington.

McLean's hospital ties date to 1975, when he was director of public relations at St. Mary's Medical Center, Evansville, Indiana. Since 2001, he's the one who answers the phone in the president's office at Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville.

"Healthcare is so complicated. People have a difficult time understanding the constant changes in policies, procedures, and pricing," he says. Traditionally, hospitals were low volume, high margin businesses, he explains. "We could charge a lot, and so we didn't have to do many procedures. All that has changed. We are definitely low margin and dependent on holding our local market share; volume is essential to sustaining services such as obstetrics."

McLean was the fourth administrator hired in as many years at North Valley Hospital in Tonasket in 1984. Intent on reducing the debt and increasing cash flow, he initiated a credit check for entering patients. They resented the policy. The hospital board stood behind him.

Many thought the hospital would fail. It didn't. Under his three-year watch it was "reengineered," acquired a new 70-bed nursing home, and broke into the black ink.

At Whitman Hospital and Medical Center in Colfax, McLean found "a fragile situation" in 1987. Losses the previous year totaled $233,000. The Palouse area's 70,000 residents didn't seem enough to support 152 hospital beds in Colfax, Pullman, and Moscow, Idaho. Whitman appeared to be in the greatest jeopardy of folding.

McLean eliminated a number of positions, froze salaries for 18 months, and spearheaded a successful drive to create a public hospital district that encompassed outlying communities. By year's end the hospital showed its first positive balance in six years-nearly $58,000. In 1994 and 1995 Whitman was listed among the top 100 hospitals in the country by a national HCIA-Mercer ranking.

McLean assumed his duties at Mount Carmel Hospital, Colville, in August 2001. For the third time, he was in a red-ink situation.

He set about a "global turnaround" through staffing changes, system support, and having Mount Carmel named a critical access hospital-a designation by Congress for rural hospitals that provides a boost in payments to help keep vital community services open.

Mount Carmel is not only making a profit again, it is proceeding with a $20 million renovation and replacement of the 1952 facility.

Categories: Alumni | Tags: Health care policy

Comments are temporarily unavailable while we perform some maintenance to reduce spam messages. If you have comments about this article, please send them to us by email: wsm@wsu.edu