WAHOO – It’s hard to say goodbye for Tyler Toline.

The Wahoo native is leaving his post as chief executive officer (CEO) of Saunders Medical Center to take the helm at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in West Point. His last day at SMC will be Friday.

“It’s hard to leave because I love this town,” said Toline, who attended St. Wenceslaus Elementary School and graduated from Wahoo High School.

Toline has been at SMC for five and a half years, and in that time his tenure has been successful.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” he said.

That includes recruiting and building the multiple sclerosis clinic at SMC, which draws patients from as far away as Colorado, Kansas and Iowa.

Toline said SMC recently signed leases with two health care organizations for the Lake Wanahoo clinic, which was purchased last year. Three Rivers Health Department will have an office there, which is a plus for the area, according to Toline.

“We’ve been trying to get them back to the community,” he said.

The clinic will also house Saunders County Chiropractic and Acupuncture, operated by Wahoo native Dr. Paul Sutton.

Under Toline’s guidance, SMC enthusiastically recruited providers to come to Wahoo to deliver the best health care possible for the community. Toline had to work on connecting with the providers on a personal level to talk them into coming to Wahoo.

“I’ve been able to relate to people well enough to get them to believe in what we want to accomplish here,” he said.

Preventative care services being done at SMC have risen in recent years, another positive step, Toline said.

“Colonoscopy and mammogram rates are better than when I started,” he said.

Toline expanded many of the departments at SMC that have helped create a solid financial foundation for the facility, including the pharmacy, surgery and specialty clinics.

“I really worked hard on a strategy to grow services that I knew would be financially stable,” he said.

He also added about 20 jobs to the payroll at SMC, for a total of 220 full-time and 50 part-time employees.

Toline also crafted ways for SMC to connect with the community. The facility took over the Meals on Wheels program and added a weight lifting program at the Wahoo Civic Center to help youth learn proper techniques. The Youth Be Well program at local schools emphasized healthy food choices and being more active.

“We are working with the community to improve health, and that starts at a really young age,” he said.

During his time at SMC, Toline said the facility has forged a “great relationship” with the board of directors during his time as CEO, and the board of directors has also worked well with the Saunders County Board of Commissioners.

“What’s great about the relationship with the county board is it’s definitely the best it’s ever been here,” he said.

The county board recently approved SMC’s plan to refinance bonds to reduce the debt, another positive move to improve the facility’s financial position that took place under Toline’s guidance.

Toline’s journey into health care was an unusual one. He has a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering and worked in the field for a short time after college. However, he dreamed of being a doctor and was accepted to medical school. A week later he and his wife, Sarah, found out they were going to have their first child. He decided to go into medical administration and went to

graduate school.

When he got to SMC in 2014, Toline said he faced a steep learning curve.

“But it really has been a blessing and I am very thankful for the opportunity,” he added.

Toline said his goal in his first five years at SMC was to be able to measure and improve the quality of outcomes and to provide a stable financial foundation.

“My whole vision was in the next five years to make SMC an indispensable part of the county,” he added.

The SMC board of directors will be recruiting candidates to replace Toline. In the meantime, SMC’s chief operating officer, Julie Rezac, will work as interim CEO.

Because SMC is governed by a board of directors that is a government entity, the search for the new CEO will be done during public meetings, Toline said.

Toline said he will be sad to leave SMC and his hometown, but as if often the case, personal reasons force a professional choice.

“This is truly the best choice for my wife and family,” he said.

He is looking forward to running Saint Francis, a Catholic hospital that is run by a small group of nuns in Wisconsin. It is a small medical facility, but Toline is fine with that.

“That really appeals to me,” he said.

As Toline leaves, he has a good feeling about his decision and the position SMC is in as he hands the reins to someone else.

“It is in a much better spot than when I got here,” he said.

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