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LRGHealthcare CEO retires – Clairmont was with organization for 43 years

LACONIA — After 43 years with LRGHealthcare, the last quarter century as its president and chief executive officer, Tom Clairmont is retiring.

The Board of Trustees, announced Clairmont's retirement in a formal statement issued Thursday evening.

"Tom Clairmont has provided decades of critical leadership and service to LRGHealthcare and his tenure will be looked back upon as one of innovation and fiscal responsibility," said Scott Clarenbach, chairman of the board. "Tom has played a vital role in our evolution into the leading healthcare provider for the Lakes Region."

Clarenbach said yesterday that the trustees are scheduled to announce the appointment of an interim president on  Monday, Aug.4. The board, he explained, has begun a strategic planning process which, once complete, will indicate the qualities and skills expected of a permanent successor. At that point -- which he suggested would not be anytime soon -- the board will mount a search. "We are taking this very seriously," he stressed, "but we are also looking for the person with the right qualities."

The Sun attempted to reach Clairmont for this story, but the calls were not immediately returned yesterday.

Born and raised in Belmont, where he volunteered with the Fire Department while in high school, Clairmont joined the financial department of Lakes Region General Hospital in 1971 as an accountant. While working his way to become comptroller and director of fiscal services he earned his bachelor's degree at St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vt., and his master's degree in business administration, with a speciality in healthcare management, at Boston College. When Belmont lost its contracted ambulance service in the 1970s, Clairmont not only arranged for the town to acquire and equip an ambulance, but also was among those responding to the first medical emergencies.

After serving in senior operational and financial positions Clairmont was named president and chief and executive officer of Lakes Region General Hospital in March 1989. His tenure began with a period of growth that positioned what became LRGHealthcare as the hub of a network of hospitals, clinics and services providing medical care to the residents of more than two municipalities in the three counties of Lakes and Three Rivers regions.

Clarenbach described Clairmont as "a very innovative leader," with a strong belief in a collaborative approach to providing medical services and a strong commitment to ensuring widespread access to healthcare. Apart from the hospital, Clairmont spawned satellites offering fitness programs and day care for elders along with a dental resource center and holistic health center. There was a program to assist patients with the cost of prescription medications.

The hospital entered an arrangement with the city of Laconia to share the costs of of staffing and equipping the Fire Department ambulance service. The growth that occurred under Clairmont's tenure was crowned by the merger of Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital and the christening of LRGHealthcare in 2000.

By then the pressures weighing on the not-for-profit corporation had begun to appear. Orthopedic Professional Association (OPA), a medical practice which moved to in Gilford, sought to open its own ambulatory surgical center. LRGH resisted, and in a settlement with OPA LRGH became the operator of ambulatory surgical facility. Today Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists is among LRGH's affiliated services.

However, Clarenbach said that the trend has persisted, as alternative providers of lab work, and imaging services along with walk-in clinics have proliferated.

Meanwhile, with a disproportionate share of Medicaid patients, LRGH began feeling the squeeze between its rising costs of providing care and the low reimbursement rates it received from the state. In 2004 and 2005, under Clairmont's leadership, the corporation began shrinking or shedding some of its costly satellite programs and services, turned to investing in its core facilities, and engaging in the politics of healthcare. Clarenbach credited with Clairmont with steering LRGHealthcare through "a rapidly changing and very challenging healthcare environment on a shoestring."

Construction of the new Inter-Lakes Medical Center in Meredith began in 2009, and in 2011 a new 97,000-square foot addition to Lakes Region General Hospital was opened, and sections of Franklin Regional Hospital were renovated. LRGHealthcare countered the appearance of walk-in clinics with one of its own, Convenience Care, and introduced specialties of its own, like MAKOplasty knee and hip surgery and the Weight Institute of New Hampshire. Last year Franklin Regional Hospital added a psychiatric department.

Clairmont was among the chief architects of the Granite Healthcare Network, a partnership of five hospitals with 1,000 physicians and 9,000 employees serving 500,000 people in 50 municipalities in New Hampshire. Formed in 2010, the network created an insurance exchange to reduce the cost of malpractice insurance. Since then the partners have pursued joint purchasing of laboratory services and information technology priced beyond the means of individual members. Clarenbach said that the network offers a means to significantly reduce costs while improving the quality of care.

When former Gov. John Lynch sought to transfer the surplus accumulated by a medical malpractice insurance fund to the state general fund, LRGHealthcare, as the largest single premium payer, challenged the state in court and ultimately prevailed, recovering $3.5-million. Likewise, more recently LRGHealthcare joined with all but one of the state's largest hospitals in suing the state over its calculation and distribution of Medicaid payments.

As a young man, Clairmont joined a hospital, which he transformed into a comprehensive healthcare facility consisting of two hospitals, with 157 beds between them, along with 22 affiliated medical programs and services. He also found time to share his energy and talent with the Caring Community Network of the Twin Rivers, Community Health and Hospice, Rural Health Coalition of New Hampshire, the Taylor Community, and Bank of New Hampshire.


Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 11:51

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Belmont, Gilmanton police report uptick in burglaries

BELMONT – Police are investigating a burglary and theft at the Top of the Town Restaurant.

Police said forced entry was made sometime after closing on Wednesday but before opening the next day by one or more people breaking a window and entering the rear of the restaurant on Ladd Hill Road.

An undisclosed amount of money was taken, police said.

This is the third burglary reported to Belmont Police in the past week.

Police are also seeking information about a burglary on Fuller Street and one on Gilmanton Road, however have not determined if any of the three are related.

Gilmanton Police said they are also investigating four burglaries that have occurred within the past month.

They said two of the break-ins have been at the same unoccupied home, but they have not been able to determine if the others are related.

Anyone who has any information or sees any suspicious activity or automobiles is asked to call the Belmont Police Department at 267-8350 or the Gilmanton Police Department at 267-7401.


Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 11:21

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Grand jury indicts local contractor on tax evasion charges

NORTHFIELD — Local contractor Ronald W. Martin has been indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of income tax evasion for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, the U.S. Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday.

Martin was indicted on July 23 in the District of New Hampshire. The indictment alleges that for the three years Martin evaded federal income taxes on approximately $400,000 of income by directing earned income to be paid to a third party and depositing a small share of his earnings into his business bank account in an effort to conceal its source. Martin, who owns and operates Martin Construction, allegedly instructed customers to record payments made for services rendered to a third party then deposited "a small fraction" of the income earned by his company into its account at Franklin Savings Bank in Tilton.

The indictment is the most recent entry to Martin's criminal record, which dates at least from 1975 and includes conviction and incarceration for eight counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, as well as charges of issuing bad checks, criminal threatening, disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals.

In 2006 and 2007 several fires at a salvage yard Martin owned in Alton were deemed suspicious, but no charges were filed.

In 2008 he was investigated when 1,000 gallons of heating oil were dumped into Kimball Brook in Gilmanton, which flows into Rocky Pond. The truck carrying the oil was owned by Martin's nephew and was parked on property Martin owned when the dumping occurred. But again charges were never filed.

A year later Martin was charged with five misdemeanors for alleged unlawful dumping in Northumberland in Coos County.


Last Updated on Saturday, 02 August 2014 12:01

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Gilford Police proposed cell tower at Planning Board

GILFORD — After two years of working to finding a place for a new communications tower, the Police Department has submitted a plan for a 80-foot tower to be constructed on Mount Rowe very near the existing communications tower.

According to Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee, the bottom line is the Police Department and the Public Works Department each need more comprehensive radio coverage than they have now.

"We even have a hard time with portable-to-portable radios," Bean Burpee said. "It's an officer safety issue."

While radio communications between police officers has always been spotty in places in the relatively hilly and sprawling community, last year's FCC requirement that that all police switch to a narrow-band radio signal has enhanced the need for a new communications tower.

The town was in communication with the owners of the big communications tower on Mount Rowe, but when it learned the lease agreement for a spot on it would be too costly, the focus changed to building its own tower.

In 2013, voters approved the expenditure of $158,000 for the police to build a tower.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said yesterday that the town was unable to get grant funding for the this particular project.

He said he has been working with the Gunstock Area Commissioners about a license agreement, and said there is a tacit agreement about the site. The said the proposed agreement is for $1 annually and "other valuable considerations."

The application to the Planning Board for a public hearing was signed by Gunstock Mountain Resort General Manager Greg Goddard.

The Planning Board will be scheduling a public hearing on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 11:23

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