COLUMBUS - After more than 10 years in the Columbus area, Ed Harding, president and chief executive officer of Columbus Community Hospital, has accepted the position of president and chief executive officer of Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette.

Harding will remain at CCH until Dec. 3 to facilitate planning and move forward with key strategic initiatives, including the hospital's upcoming phase three renovation project.

"This decision was very difficult," said Harding, who lives in the community with his wife Lori. "In the end, the chance to be closer to both sets of aging parents and the rest of my family, along with the opportunity for career advancement, led me to make the decision."

Over the years, Harding led CCH through several projects, including the construction of a new emergency room, a new hospital front entrance and chapel, the remodeling of the medical imaging department and development of a wellness walkway around the hospital's campus and - the most recent addition - a new fourth floor for inpatients.

During his tenure at CCH, Harding was also instrumental in securing an affiliation with SSM Health Care of Wisconsin/St. Mary's, which has resulted in the addition of primary and specialty physicians at CCH, the construction of a Dean/St. Mary's Clinic on the hospital's campus and a contract with Madison Emergency Physicians which staffs the CCH Emergency Room and Urgent Care.

"CCH is in great financial shape and has a very bright future," said Harding. "Looking back over my career at CCH, I am reminded of the many challenging times and many fond memories. The hardest part of leaving CCH is the thought of no longer interacting with my fellow employees at CCH and the community. I am proud to have worked with such a great team of healthcare providers. It's just been an incredible 10-and-a-half-year career at Columbus Community Hospital."

Harding said that the Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette has four times the number of beds as CCH.

"It is really considered to be a regional provider of healthcare services," he said.

Harding said that CCH employees learned of his decision on Thursday morning.

In addition to his work as CEO of the hospital, Harding served the community as a member of the Volunteers of Columbus Community Hospital, the Columbus/Fall River Rotary Club, the Columbus Area Aquatic Center board and the Columbus Area Elder Peer Support Group board. He is a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

A national search for a replacement has begun. In addition, a search firm will identify an interim candidate to lead CCH during the period between Harding's departure and the hiring of a new chief executive officer.

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