Lakeside Administrator Bill Ward to retire after 33 years
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN In his 33 years as administrator, Bill Ward of Augustana Health Care Center (Dassel Lakeside) has seen the scope of care change.
It used to be that patients would walk into the facility only to eventually be carried out.
“Now, it’s the opposite, as we change the model of care,” Ward said.
What once was a facility where the majority of its residents were there for longterm care, has since changed and instead, 70 percent of the resident base are recovering to go home, Ward explained.
As Ward prepares to retire, he said his time there has been great, but he’s getting tired.
Though he has enjoyed the staff and residents, he won’t miss the increased regulations that make the health care industry that much more difficult.
“It used to be easy,” Ward said of the nature of the business. “It’s not easy anymore everything’s gotten harder.”
He cites the difficulties in increased regulations, finding qualified staff, finances to run the facility, and more complexity in care.
In regards to the latter, Ward said, hospitals are moving people out much sooner than in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when he first entered into the profession.
Now, patients are recovering at longterm care facilities and therefore, staff have needed to upgrade their skills to accommodate the variety of residents.
There are four areas in which they serve short stays, from two weeks to three months; longterm care, housing, and assisted living.
A viable career
Born and raised in the small town of Lakefield, in southern Minnesota, Ward started a career in law enforcement after earning a degree in sociology.
After nine years, Ward decided he needed a longterm career that was more fullfilling. So, he went back to school to earn a degree in longterm care administration, following in the footsteps of his mother, a hospital administrator; and brother-in-law, a nursing home administrator.
“In all of my years, I’m the only ex-cop I’ve ever found in this business,” Ward said, adding that he took somewhat of an unusual trail.
Though it wasn’t something he first went into with a great amount of passion for longterm care, he acquired it.
He has enjoyed working with people the most, and helping them succeed and thrive.
Ward compared this mentality to being a bass player in the band Aänie Onnen, a Northern European folk band, meaning “happy music” in Finnish.
“The bass player enables the singer to be in front of the crowd,” Ward said. “I’m not seeking the glory myself, but it’s fun to see staff get their rewards, or the residents walk out of the facility, when they were carried in.”
Also during his time as administrator, Ward has managed six renovation and/or expansion projects. This included the completion of a nursing home expansion project that began three years prior to his arrival in 1981, which expanded the building from 45 beds to 64.
Since then, a senior apartment building has been added and expanded, and a complete remodel of the nursing home was completed in phases, beginning in 2011.
What he will miss about his job as administrator is really what he will also miss the least, and that is the busyness of the day, with something always going on.
Though his home will always be in Dassel, he is planning on getting away for the winter to South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.
Ward’s last day was intended to be Friday, April 11, however, he will continue his administrative duties on a part-time basis until Augustana finds a replacement.
“I’m my own interim,” he noted.
An open house is planned for Thursday, April 10 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Lakeside Health Care Center in Dassel. Music by Aänie Onnen and refreshments will be provided.