Mystery over Duluth hospital CEO's sudden departure

Kevin Nokels stepped down this week, after less than 18 months in the role.
Kevin Nokels

The abrupt departure of the CEO of St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth has been met with surprise.

Kevin Nokel's sudden departure was confirmed in a statement to BMTN earlier this week, bringing an end a short stint at the hospital after he took the role in August 2019.

"We thank Kevin for the talent he brought to St. Luke’s, especially during this incredibly challenging pandemic," said Herb Minke, St. Luke’s Board Vice Chair.

He is being replaced on an interim basis by Chief Financial Officer Eric Lohn and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelan.

The reason for Nokels' resignation has not been revealed, and when he was contacted at his home by the Star Tribune, he said he wasn't interested in commenting.

The news took some aback, with Pete Boyechko RN, the Minnesota Nurses Association co-chair for St. Luke's, commenting to BMTN: "We were surprised to hear of Mr. Nokels departure from St. Luke’s."

"The St. Luke’s MNA bargaining unit has had productive conversations with Dr. Van Deelen and Mr. Lohn on the past and look forward to collaborating with them as they take helm of the organization and lead us forward."

Nokels did come under scrutiny when shortly before his departure was announced, the Duluth News Tribune reported that office staff at the hospital were being asked to attend work in person rather than work from home, despite the state's COVID-19 guidance.

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Per the newspaper, concerned employees said Nokels "values in-person attendance" despite the Minnesota Department of Health saying non-essential workers should work from home whenever possible.

Nokels, via the hospital's communications office, said that those who wanted to work remotely could talk through the option with their manager, and said it "wasn't the case" that office staff aren't allowed to work from home.

In a response to BMTN, a St. Luke's Hospital spokesperson said Nokels' departure didn't have anything to do with the concerns raised in the story.

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