50+ healthcare executives have made moves to leave their jobs so far in 2018 — Why?

Since the beginning of the year, there has been a slew of healthcare executive departures and resignations. Approximately 56 healthcare executives left their roles or announced pending departures in the first three months of 2018 alone — far more than Becker's Hospital Review typically reports on in any given three-month period. That number does not include executive retirements.

Additionally, the first quarter of this year has seen several executive departures from prominent organizations. For example, Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Detroit Medical Center have all lost leaders thus far in 2018.

One reason for this rise in departures may be the change in expected executive tenures. Paul Bohne, managing partner and leader of the healthcare practice at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, noted that executives from the baby-boom generation tended to stay with organizations for 20-plus years. Today, it is increasingly becoming the norm for executives to spend only four to five years with an organization.

There are several trends surrounding executive departures and contributing to the changing norms regarding tenures. Here are some of the biggest ones Becker's Hospital Review has noted in the last three months:

M&A-related moves. Mergers and market consolidation are continuing to drive leadership turnover, says Mr. Bohne. In early March, Chicago-based Presence Health President and CEO Michael Englehart announced his resignation, effective March 30. The announcement came one week after Presence became part of St. Louis-based Ascension and added its sites of care to Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Amita Health.

Another sudden move came at the beginning of February, when Bart Hove, CEO-elect of the new Ballad Health organization, announced his retirement. Ballad Health was created by the merger between Kingsport, Tenn.-based Wellmont Health System and Johnson City, Tenn.-based Mountain States Health Alliance, and it launched Feb. 2. Mr. Hove unexpectedly retired Feb. 1.

While it is unclear whether the mergers in each of these cases had anything to do with the CEOs' respective decisions, it is not unreasonable to conclude that with large health systems coming together to create mega-systems, leaders might find the needs of the organization and their own professional goals no longer align.

Departing for new opportunities. Given that the average expected tenure of a hospital CEO has shortened significantly, executives are more frequently exploring new job opportunities. In many cases, hospital leaders are simply moving to a new organization, as in the case of Reginald Eadie, MD, who left his role as regional COO of Detroit Medical Center to serve as president and CEO of Hartford, Conn.-based Trinity Health of New England, effective March 26.

Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, N.Y., also lost its president and CEO, Nathan Howell, earlier this year. Mr. Howell resigned to take on the CEO role at Biddeford-based Southern Maine Health Care.

"The reality is that many leaders are working to grow their careers," says Mr. Bohne. "While some are looking to hang up their hats, others are ambitious or restless. We are [also] seeing some increase in the trend of leaders looking to join nontraditional providers, [including roles in] retail healthcare."

For example, Cincinnati-based The Christ Hospital Health Network President and CEO Mike Keating is departing later this year to join a New York-based healthcare private equity firm. He has served as Christ Hospital CEO for five-plus years, assuming the role in 2013.

Political issues with staff or board. Thus far in 2018, we have also seen healthcare executives depart due to disagreements with staff or the board. On Feb. 7, Morgantown, W.Va.-based Mon Health President and CEO Darryl Duncan was placed on a leave of absence after more than 20 physicians at the institution's flagship hospital signed a letter of no confidence in Mr. Duncan. He eventually resigned March 19.

Another instance involves Jeff Walker, COO of Columbus-based James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who left the role in February. He is one of at least 10 high-ranking employees at OSU Wexner who have left their roles since January 2017.

Given the heightened issues around governance and accountability regarding organizational performance, executives are less afraid of making moves if they feel performance is at stake, says Mr. Bohne. Boards also appear to be less hesitant about shaking up leadership teams if they feel performance or their mission is being compromised.

"If [boards] don't feel that leadership is meeting their community mission, they have the obligation to lean in," he says. "Some boards lean in more effectively than others; some lean in too far and create impediments for leadership and others may not lean in enough."

Financial or quality issues at organization. In the two months since Carson City, Mich.-based Sparrow Carson Hospital came under fire for infection control issues, two executives have departed from their roles. President and CEO Matthew Thompson left his post just 10 days after CMS threatened to revoke the hospital's Medicare funding over infection control concerns in February, while Chief Nursing Officer and COO Barb McQuillan, BSN, RN, departed in early March.

Aberdeen, Wash.-based Grays Harbor Community Hospital announced in March that it laid off 24 percent of its leadership amid restructuring efforts to reach financial stability. This includes executive-level positions such as COO, CFO and cultural change leader. The positions will remain vacant for the time being.

While the themes of executive turnover will continue mostly based on the baby-boomer demographic that is currently occupying executive offices, departures will also be exacerbated by changing priorities in the C-suite, market consolidation, threats to reimbursements and the squeeze health systems feel with regard to performance, Mr. Bohne says.




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