While many rural hospitals across the country struggle to keep their doors open, Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth has been finding ways to serve a larger population. In August, the 25-bed hospital opened a new urgent care facility, MedCheck Urgent Care, in Meredith—an $8 million project.
Michelle McEwen, who has been president and CEO of Speare Memorial Hospital for 23 years, has seen an increased need for health care services in the Lakes Region since LRGHealthcare’s financial issues led to closing several services in the Lakes Region before being acquired by Concord Hospital.
She points out that of the 13 rural critical care hospitals in the state, only four, including Speare, still have birth centers. “It is a commitment we made to our community,” she says, noting when LRGHealthcare closed its birthing center in 2018, Speare Memorial Hospital was the only hospital offering birthing services between Concord and Littleton. “We reached out to communities to let them know we had this service and picked up some market share.”
As LRGHealthcare continued to close other programs, “we saw Meredith and that area was losing access to care,” McEwen says. That is why the MedCheck Urgent Care facility will also house specialty medical services, including obstetrics, pediatrics, general surgery, bariatric services and an acid reflux center, she says.
McEwen, who leads 500 employees, started her career in finance as an auditor for a CPA firm, which included auditing hospitals and helping them through financial difficulties. “That’s when I started to get interested in health care,” she says.
She was able to use those skills during the pandemic as Speare, like other hospitals, had to suspend elective procedures during part of the pandemic, cutting into the hospital’s revenue stream. McEwen and her team were able to guide the hospital through that financially challenging time. Speare is now expanding its services. “We are currently looking at expanding our bariatric surgery program into a full medical weight loss program,” she says. The community recently lost podiatry services, and the hospital is examining a business plan to possibly offer that as well.
McEwen says she enjoys the support of a talented team. “I love seeing this organization be so successful,” she says.