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Altru Health System hires Molmen as interim CEO

Former CEO steps in to fill vacancy until next summer.

David Molmen, former CEO of Altru Health System and head of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Advisory Council at UND, speaks to legislators about the medical school's priorities for the biennium. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)
David Molmen speaks to legislators in this Grand Forks Herald file photo. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

Altru Health System is filling its CEO position for the first time since firing two top executives in February, the company announced Tuesday in a press release describing the system’s “immediate need for transformation.”

Altru President Steven Weiser, who announced the news to employees simultaneously in an internal email, said he’ll be joined in leading the nonprofit by Dave Molmen, who will serve as interim CEO through June 2021.

Molmen, a former Altru CEO for more than a decade, joined the company’s board in April. A company announcement on his appointment said he then served as Altru’s “executive director of advocacy.” Weiser praised his experience, which he said will help Molmen seamlessly take on the new job. Weiser also said Molmen has declined a salary through the end of 2020.

"Beginning in January of 2021, the board will begin formal recruitment for a permanent CEO," Weiser added.

Molmen's appointment fills a gap left by prior CEO Brad Wehe, who was fired in early February along with Chief Financial Officer Sara Lusignan. The company did not discuss specific reasons for their departure.


“It’s not criminal, it’s not personal, it’s not any of that," board Vice Chairman Lonnie Laffen told the Herald in February. "But we need to be positioned for the changing health care future, and that’s what we’re doing. Health care is changing quickly."

Altru has faced significant financial challenges in recent years, largely due to the cost burden of a new hospital planned in the wake of structural failures at its Grand Forks clinic. Costs for that project have varied as plans for construction have shifted, but have consistently run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The company has shown negative net incomes in recent tax filings, which are publicly available documents, and its revenue bonds were downgraded by two agencies last year.

Financial strains were deepened in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, as patients who were either reluctant to go to the hospital or told to stay home chipped away at health care revenues around the country. In April, Altru paused hospital construction, and on June 1, it laid off 167 workers, or about 6.5% of its workforce.

The hospital also has slashed executive pay by 30% and reduced staffing hours by roughly 10 to 15%.

“As we navigate an ever-changing industry and an immediate need for transformation, Dave’s experience as Altru’s CEO for 11 years and his connections in the community give him the ability to step into this role immediately and effectively,” Weiser said in the company’s public announcement. “I am pleased to welcome Dave to our executive team and look forward to working together as we undergo a crucial re-design of our organization.”

Dave Molmen

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