FORKS — A woman who started working as a certified nursing assistant at Forks Community Hospital three decades ago has been named the health care institution’s new chief executive officer.
Heidi Anderson, whose great-great grandfather was the legendary “Iron Man of the Hoh,” will take over Tuesday for Tim Cournyer, who is retiring and will continue at Forks Community Hospital (FCH) as a hospital consultant.
Anderson, 49, the current chief nursing officer and deputy superintendent, has spent all but 18 months of her life in Forks, graduating from Peninsula High School in 1988.
She will oversee a $33.5 million budget, 310 employees and the challenge posed by a 40 percent drop in revenue traced to patients’ fear over the COVID-19 pandemic, a financial hit also being felt by Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend.
Anderson said FCH, a maximum 25-bed facility without an intensive care unit, does not have the facilities to treat coronavirus patients and sends them to Olympic Medical Center or to Seattle hospitals.
“The concern is, because of COVID, hospital volumes are down, which impacts us financially,” she said Thursday.
“But what we are seeing is, patients are not seeking normal, routine health care and aren’t being seen until they are very sick.
“We want people to know the hospital is a safe place and so are the clinics.”
FCH operates Clallam Bay and Bogachiel clinics and Forks Family Medical Clinic.
Anderson, who will earn $164,000 a year under a two-year contract, was a high school graduate when she started at the hospital in 1991.
She earned her licensed practical nurse license two years later, a registered nurse license in 2003 and received a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2011.
Anderson is enrolled in an online master’s degree program in business administration, with an emphasis in rural health, at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn.
Days away from leading the Forks area’s largest employer, Anderson said when she started at FCH, she wasn’t thinking about climbing the ranks.
“Back then, I just wanted to learn an occupation,” she recalled, adding she wanted do something meaningful.
“I wanted to get into an occupation that would lead to a higher education and to take care of people.”
Her family has had a home on the Hoh River since 1889, the year Washington became the 42nd state.
Anderson’s great-great grandfather, John Huelsdonk, who lived on the homestead, became known as the Iron Man of the Hoh for his prodigious strength.
His feats included walking to a trail camp while carrying a camp stove packed with a 50-pound sack of flour and other provisions inside a backpack that weighed about 150 pounds, according to HistoryLink.org (tinyurl.com/PDN-IronManHoh).
“He is legendary,” Anderson said.
“He was a very big, strong German man.
“I wish I could have met him.”
Anderson and her husband, Ron — who is operations manager at Forks-based Puget Sound Surfacers Inc. — live in Forks.
They have two grown children.
Anderson had planned to move into her new office Friday.
Kelly Thompson will be the new chief nursing officer.
In announcing his retirement, Cournyer thanked the hospital board, hospital employees and Forks community in a March 9 letter on FCH’s website (tinyurl.com/PDN-Cournyer Retires).
“I also realize that I am not getting any younger and it is time to spend more time with my wife, kids, grandkids, and my many outdoor hobbies,” he said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@ peninsuladailynews.com.