Hospital CEO exits climb in what may be bellwether for C-suites

The number of CEO changes at hospitals and health systems climbed 300 percent in November after a slowdown the month prior, according to a Dec. 14 Challenger, Gray & Christmas report.

In November, hospitals saw 12 CEO exits compared to three in October. The dozen most recently recorded exits mark a 33 percent increase from the nine recorded in November 2021. 

Across all industries, CEO exits surged in November after what the executive coaching firm calls "a summer lull." The number of CEO changes rose 34 percent from 71 in October to 95 in November. The latest month also saw an uptick in retirements — 37 CEOs retired, the most since January 2020.

The upturn of CEO movement in November may be a sign of more CEO changes to come. 

"We may begin to see large numbers of CEO changes as we enter 2023 amid an economic downturn," said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "Companies are shoring up succession plans to enter the storm." 

In an Oct. 18 report from Kaufman Hall based on response from 86 health system leaders, 46 percent said labor costs are the largest opportunity for cost reduction — up significantly from the 17 percent of leaders who said the same last year. Job cuts at hospitals may seem counterintuitive given the nation's widely known shortages of healthcare workers. But as hospitals weather one of their most financially difficult years, some are reducing administrative staff, not filling vacant jobs or shrinking their executive teams to curb costs.

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