SW Health names interim CEO

Helwig resignation unexpected

The Southwest Health System Board of Directors announced Thursday that Liz Sellers has been appointed interim CEO.

Employed by the local hospital for the past 25 years, Sellers most recently served as chief clinical officer. She temporarily replaces CEO Kent Helwig, who recently resigned to pursue other opportunities, said board member Judith Schuenemeyer. Helwig served as CEO since 2011.

“We will start the process to find a permanent CEO starting next week,” Schuenemeyer said. “We’re not going to rush through it.”

The CEO of the hospital is appointed by and reports to the board of directors, and is employed directly by Southwest Health System, Inc. The CEO appoints and manages members of the leadership team.

Southwest Health System operates Southwest Memorial Hospital, Southwest Walk-In Care, Cortez Primary Care, Southwest Memorial Primary Care, Southwest Memorial Physicians, Cortez Orthopedics, Red Rock Podiatry, Four Corners Surgical and Mancos Valley Health Center.

Helwig was hired in August 2011 as CEO. He was previously a U.S. Air Force hospital administrator.

Attempts to contact Helwig were unsuccessful. Besides a short statement and press release of his resignation, board members of Southwest Health System (SHS) would not comment about Helwig’s departure or did not return phone calls by deadline.

SHS is the private, non-profit operating arm of the hospital. The building and property are owned by the Montezuma County Hospital District (MCHD).

MCHD board member Fred Dewitt said he was unaware of Helwig’s resignation, and was surprised to hear the news.

“He did a good job as far as I know,” Dewitt said. “There was not problem with him on the MCHD board. He got quite a bit done.”

During his 2½ years as CEO, Helwig oversaw daily operations, hiring, and hospital maintenance.

Under Helwig, the Mancos Health Clinic was brought under Southwest Health Systems, preventing the rural facility from closing. He also helped to expand other services for rural health care offered by Southwest Memorial.

Helwig was instrumental in solving a physician shortage by hiring doctors and medical staff to meet community needs.

General maintenance was also well attended under Helwig, according hospital records.

In partnership with the MCHD board, the hospital completed a $281,000 upgrade of the parking lot and medical campus landscaping. Also in 2011, $686,000 was invested in a new boiler, emergency generator, and air-conditioning unit. In 2012, the hospital underwent a major electrical overhaul at a cost of $257,000.

Under Helwig, Southwest’s reputation as a excellent teaching hospital continued.

Southwest partners with regional medical schools for student training in multiple medical fields. Students who conduct clinical rotations often end up being hired, and are often from the area.

In 2014, Southwest labs were recognized for excellence by the College of American Pathologists. The hospital lab is one of more than 7,000 CAP accredited laboratories worldwide.

In 2013, Southwest was recognized by iVantage Health Analytics as a HealthStrong Award winner for Excellence in Quality.

“I’m exceptionally proud of our entire team,” Helwig said at the time. “This award acknowledges the tremendous efforts they undertake everyday to make sure the absolute highest-quality health care is provided to the entire community.”