GLOVERSVILLE — The longtime president and CEO of Nathan Littauer Hospital & Nursing Home announced Wednesday that he will retire.
Laurence E. Kelly’s last day at the hospital will be Oct. 2, at the end of the third quarter.
His 19 years as leader of Nathan Littauer have coincided with a period of considerable stress for the healthcare industry, with a state-ordered consolidation of many facilities, the worst recession in 75 years, the sweeping changes of Obamacare and rapidly spiraling costs, especially for medications.
During that same stretch from 2001 to 2019, the hospital’s total net assets increased from $13.3 million to $90 million, its payroll grew from 656 full-time equivalent employees to 807, and it added eight primary care centers with its 52 square-mile footprint. It has finished the last 18 years in the black, counting 2019, and Kelly intends to extend that streak to 19 years.
The reason for the improving fortunes? Understanding what a small rural hospital is, and does, and should do.
“I think we’ve kind of figured it out: Try to do things smaller community hospitals are good at,” Kelly said during an interview Thursday. That would be expanding the service area and adding services, but not to the extent a major regional hospital would.
“We’ve always had this philosophy that if there’s something we can do well and prevents someone who lives out here from having to go someplace else [for care] we should do it. But only if we can do it well. You’d be surprised how many things that has been over the years.”
Kelly was born in Queens but spent the greatest part of his childhood in Boston. He has had only three employers during his 41 years in healthcare administration: What was then called Memorial Hospital (in Worcester, Massachusetts), where he rose to vice president; St. Luke’s Hospital (Newburgh, New York), where he was CEO; and Littauer.
As Kelly ends his tenure, Littauer will be the only standalone independent hospital left in the greater Capital Region — all the others have affiliated or merged with each other or larger organizations to decrease costs or increase efficiency.
He credits two things for the hospital’s success: The people working there and the practice of investing the positive operating margin back into the hospital and in new technology.
“My goal has always been to build an independent organization that can quickly respond to the unique needs of this community,” Kelly said in a news release. “We also needed to stand on solid footing. I wanted to build a hospital for this generation and the next.”
Kelly and his wife, Dianne Shugrue, reside in Clifton Park. They have three adult children and one grandchild, with a second on the way. (Shugrue, who is CEO of Glens Falls Hospital, has no plans to retire at this point.)
Kelly isn’t sure exactly what retirement will hold, except that he will keep busy and won’t be working for a paycheck. “There are lots of things that I can see myself doing,” he said. He’s a beekeeper, a gardener, has written two books of family history and plans to write two more. There’s a list of deferred projects at home, too. And probably even some recreation mixed in.
“Can you imagine playing golf or skiing during the week?” he marveled.
Littauer’s board of directors will work to recruit a new CEO. This autumn, a celebration of Kelly’s career will be held and a fund will be established to honor his years of service.