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North Country Health Services: New CEO to lead health care team

Paul Hanson started work this week as the CEO and president of North Country Health Services in Bemidji. Pioneer Photo/ Molly Miron

The new CEO and president of North Country Health Services Paul Hanson was on the job for just three days Friday, but he said he is no stranger to the Bemidji area.

"I've been in Bemidji on and off for 23 years," he said. "I love the lake country. I'm lucky to be here."

Hanson brings more than 22 years of executive health care experience to North Country. He came to NCHS this week from the position of president and CEO for Prairie Lakes Healthcare System of Watertown, S.D.

Hanson holds undergraduate bachelor degrees from Concordia College in Moorhead in health care administration and long-term care administration. He also earned a Master of Science in health administration from the University of Colorado. He is also a fellow with the American College of Health Care Executives.

Hanson is taking on the challenge of managing a 900-employee regional health care complex.

"It really comes down to managing the resources we have," he said. "The average hospital in America loses money, so we don't want to be average."

He said the resources NCHS has are the people, finances and technology.

"The staff here has been phenomenal," he said. "From my perception, we've had a good transition."

Hanson took over from Jim Hanko, who retired this week after serving as CEO and president for 11 years.

Hanson said his goals are to enhance and expand services such as in oncology and interventional cardiology.

Hanson said he enjoys building strong relationships between the organization and its providers. He also cited the strength of the partnership between NCHS and MeritCare-Bemidji.

Hanson has three children: Cassie, 21, a student at the University of North Dakota; Kari, 17; and Matthew, 15. The children live with their mother in Perham, Minn., which makes for a much easier visiting commute from Bemidji than from Watertown, S.D., he said.