published Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Erlanger Health System cuts six executive positions

The Erlanger Hospital campus is visible from South Crest Drive in this file photo.
The Erlanger Hospital campus is visible from South Crest Drive in this file photo.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Cuts and executive restructuring at Erlanger Health System aim to make the hospital -- which has struggled financially in the last six months -- more profitable, according to its interim CEO.

On Monday, the hospital announced six out of 15 executive positions had been cut, and one of its vice presidents was sent to head Erlanger at Hutcheson as part of a restructuring plan.

Erlanger and Erlanger at Hutcheson have lost a combined $15 million in the first five months of the fiscal year beginning July 1 as both hospitals dealt with CEO changes and lower surgery numbers.

"Our primary focus is to start the next fiscal year without a deficit," Erlanger interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson wrote in the announcement sent Monday to employees. "A key component of our labor management plan was to initiate a reorganization that includes the three-step process of reduction, stabilizing operations and revenue growth. This process required starting with a realignment of the executive team."

Roger Forgey, previously Erlanger's senior vice president of regional operations and business development, has been named CEO of Erlanger at Hutcheson in Fort Oglethorpe.

Hutcheson's CEO, Charles Stewart, resigned in February, and Debbie Reeves served as the hospital's administrator prior to Forgey's appointment.

Erlanger assumed management of the North Georgia hospital in May, extending it a $20 million line of credit.

Forgey will take over the reins as CEO, pending approval by Hutcheson's board of trustees. The Hutcheson board is meeting today but did not have an agenda, so it is not clear whether Forgey's appointment will be considered.

Last week, Erlanger announced organizational changes were in the works after the departure of former CEO Jim Brexler on Dec. 31. Erlanger trustees approved a $728,000 severance package for Brexler on Jan. 9.

According to the announcement sent out Monday, Erlanger Chief Compliance Officer Alana Sullivan and Chief Legal Officer Dale Hetzler continue to report to Erlanger's board of trustees, with an indirect reporting role to Woodard-Thompson.

The remaining executive team will be structured into four primary divisions.

Gregg Gentry, who previously headed human resources, will serve as chief administrative officer. Dr. Cy Huffman adds chief quality officer to his job as chief medical officer. Britt Tabor will remain chief financial officer, while Lynn Whisman will serve as chief operating officer and be responsible for all five of Erlanger's campuses, in addition to being chief nursing officer.

The remaining four executives are Joe Winick, senior vice president of strategic planning; Blaine Morris, vice president of clinical services; Steve Johnson, vice president of payor/government relations; and Laurene Vamprine, vice president of information services, according to an email from Erlanger spokeswoman Pat Charles.

On Monday, Charles could not be reached for more information about the changes or if any of the executives would receive pay increases.

In the announcement about the changes, Woodard-Thompson said Erlanger would continue to upgrade equipment and services, build relationships with physicians and improve the pay of employees.

"These are trying times, and I know everyone is working hard," she wrote. "You have my assurance we will continue to take a thoughtful, careful approach to managing costs without impacting quality patient care."

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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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