published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Firm hired for Erlanger CEO search

 Chattanooga's Erlanger Hospital is seen in this aerial file photo.
Chattanooga's Erlanger Hospital is seen in this aerial file photo.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Should Erlanger pay a consultant to hire a CEO?

Erlanger has signed a contract to pay a search firm up to $195,000, plus expenses, to find a new CEO for the hospital.

Dr. Phylis Miller, the Erlanger Health System trustee who is heading the search committee, said the group hopes to hire the new CEO within a few months.

"We haven't given them a certain timeframe but hope to make a final selection in four to six months," Miller said.

Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson has served as interim CEO since Jim Brexler resigned in December amid allegations that he mishandled doctor relationships.

The search contract with Witt/Kieffer, a health care and life sciences executive search firm, projects the new CEO's total compensation will be $629,000, including bonuses.

Under the contract, the CEO is guaranteed to stay at Erlanger for three years, or the firm will conduct a replacement search free of charge. According to the company's website, its average executive stays in a position seven years, with hospital CEOs averaging eight-year tenures.

Witt/Kieffer will be paid 31 percent of the CEO's total compensation, with a minimum payment of $50,000 and a maximum of $195,000, according to the contract.

Brexler, who was at Erlanger eight years, had a salary of $550,000 when he left and received annual bonuses as high as $192,000 during his tenure.

Woodard-Thompson's salary is $486,737 as interim CEO.

Last week, several doctors affiliated with Erlanger confirmed they were aware of a petition circulating to name Woodard-Thompson as permanent CEO.

Miller said she had not heard about the petition, and it has not been brought before the board.

Erlanger, the city's only public hospital and level one trauma center, lost about $15 million in the fiscal year ending in June.

In July, Erlanger brought in a management consultant team to examine operations, partly because the hospital expects to be out of compliance with its bond covenant requirements.

The Times Free Press requested a copy of the contract with the consultant team, but Erlanger declined to release it, citing the Tennessee Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2011.

Earlier this year, Woodard-Thompson said the cost to hire a management consultant firm may be about $300,000.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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