Franklin Community Health Network has named an interim leader after last week’s announcement that Rebecca Arsenault would retire Feb. 29 as the Farmington hospital network’s president and CEO.

Timothy A. Churchill, president and CEO of Western Maine Health in Norway, lead both organizations until a permanent replacement for Arsenault is found, the hospital network said Friday in a news release.

Franklin Health, which operates Franklin Memorial Hospital, is a member of MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care provider. Western Maine Health is also a member of MaineHealth.

“In Tim we get a seasoned health care executive who knows firsthand the challenges that small, rural hospitals face,” Clint Boothby, chairman of the Franklin Community Health Network board, said in a prepared statement. “We also get someone who has led his organization for all 15 years that it has been a member of MaineHealth. That will set us up nicely as we start on the path of creating our own strategic vision in the wake of our joining MaineHealth in October of 2014.”

Arsenault’s departure comes as Franklin Community Health is poised to “craft a larger strategic vision in partnership with MaineHealth, a process that will take years to fully implement,” last week’s news release announcing her retirement said.

Arsenault said in the release that the health network is “at a place of envisioning a new future for our organization.

“That work should be undertaken by a leader whose expected tenure extends beyond the time I’ve planned to retire. Therefore, this is both the right decision for FCHN and for me,” she said. She declined a request for an interview this week.

Churchill has been the president and CEO of Western Maine Health and its flagship, Stephens Memorial Hospital, since 1996, according to the release. Before that, he held executive posts in the health care industry dating back to the 1980s, according to the release, and his first leadership role was as CEO of St. Joseph Hospital in Philadelphia in the early 1990s.

Boothby said the board was impressed with Churchill’s accomplishments at Western Maine Health. Stephens Memorial has been named a top rural hospital three times by The Leapfrog Group, a nationally recognized nonprofit that tracks hospital quality, and Churchill has a reputation as a strong financial leader, Boothby said.

Churchill generally plans spend two days a week in Farmington. His official start date is March 1, but he expects to spend some time in Farmington before that, according to the release.

Churchill said the dual role will allow him to work closely with the two organizations’ boards and to explore further areas of cooperation between Western Maine Health and Franklin Community Health Network.

Boothby expects it will take six to nine months to hire a permanent leader for Franklin Community Health Network.

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