Courtesy photo
Former administrator Richard Munger began his career at Mt. Grant General Hospital in 1973.

After beginning his career with Mt. Grant General Hospital in May of 1973, Administrator Richard Munger has officially retired after 44 years of service to the county.

Raised in Hawthorne, he is a “local boy made good” as new administrator Hugh Qualls stated at the retirement dinner for Munger. “Richard’s life story is an inspiration for us all. He is a local boy made good. Growing up in Hawthorne, first as a Rocket, then a Serpent, where he was an outstanding student-athlete (who once threw a no-hitter). Then off to UNR, ROTC and ultimately the Army. He returned home to take a job at MGGH, as assistant administrator. For the princely sum of about $8k a year.”

In today’s world when the average tenure for a hospital CEO is between three to seven years, Munger has withstood the stand of time. Taking the position of administrator in 1980, he has served as the head of Mt. Grant General Hospital for 37 years.

John Hall with Nevada Rural Hospital Partners explained that Munger may possibly be the longest consecutive CEO who has held that title in one hospital, in the whole nation.

In 1987, Munger wrote a grant for $1.5 million dollars to Robert Woods Johnson to form a rural consortium of hospitals in Nevada. The name of the new entity would become Nevada Rural Hospital Project, later changed to Nevada Rural Hospital Partners.

It was the mission of this group to serve as an agent of the change and improvement of the rural health system in Nevada.

He was an original signer to the grant and also to the bylaws and to credit his success; he also was the last of the founding fathers of Nevada Rural Hospital Partners to remain a CEO at a member hospital.

Appointed as the new administrator of our local hospital, Qualls explains in his speech that Munger tends to avoid the limelight while placing the hospital front and center.

“It is not an easy task to honor Richard. First, this is precisely the kind of event he does his best to avoid. The fact that he is the reason we all dressed up and made our way here (some from far away) must irritate him to no end. So be it. This is our time to honor someone who has given so much back to Mineral County, surrounding communities and Nevada in general.”

Some of his accomplishments include: the construction of the Lefa L. Seran Skilled Nursing Facility in 1994; purchasing the Heffner Medical Building to be used by visiting physicians; construction of a new medical clinic in the 1980’s and making the hospital clinic convert to a new federal program called RHC which was better both in quality and reimbursement.

“In 2000, MGGH was also the first rural hospital in Nevada to convert to a new federal hospital type – Critical Access Hospital. This designation also came with the need for new policies and surveys standards to meet federal guidelines,” Hall explained.

In 2005, the hospital was named in the “Top 35 CAHs in the Nation” by the national accounting firm, Larson Allen.

In September of 2013, Munger was named as a Health Care Hero by the Nevada Business Magazine in the administrator category.

Only a few months later in November of 2013, his contribution was recognized and he was honored to be named one of the “Ten Most Honored Nevada Rural Health Pioneers”.

When the neighboring hospital in Tonopah closed its doors, Munger stepped up to welcome patients to Mt. Grant General Hospital. He understood the need for medical care in rural Nevada.

“When you grow up with a hospital nearby, most eventually take it for granted. That’s a shame because rural hospital like MGG is an endangered species in numerous states around the country. Each year, many close their doors, forcing patients to travel miles if not hours to receive basic care. You don’t need to look any further for proof than a mere 100 miles south of here. Why there and not here? You know the answer,” Qualls explained to those who turned up to honor Munger at his retirement party.

Qualls would conclude his speech to his predecessor by saying, “The greatest legacy a man leaves behind is not how many cars he owned, how big his house was, or how much money he had in the bank. Rather, helping to ensure the care and health of others – whether friends or strangers, locals or visitors passing through, insured or not – over the span of five decades is quite a legacy indeed. Thank you, Richard.”

Currently, Munger has not announced any plans for his future though his wife, Carol stated, “He will stay home and take care of the yard.”