published Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Former Erlanger chief Charlesetta Woodard out of work

 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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WOODARD-THOMPSON'S CAREER AT ERLANGER

* June 1992 -- Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson joins the staff at Erlanger.

* March 2003 -- Woodard-Thompson, chief of human resources, is appointed interim Erlanger CEO after Dennis Pettigrew resigns. She holds the position until Jim Brexler is hired as CEO in 2004. She then becomes senior vice president and chief operating officer.

* November 2011 -- Trustees appoint Woodard-Thompson to be interim CEO after Brexler resigns.

* December 2012 -- A large group of physicians and members of the black community attend Erlanger's board meeting and speak in support of Woodard-Thompson after learning she has been cut from the CEO short list.

* February 2013 -- Trustees vote to appoint Kevin Spiegel as the hospital's next CEO.

* April 2013 -- Woodard-Thompson goes on paid leave; her position with the hospital is unclear.

Source: Erlanger Health System, Times Free Press archives

PAID TO GO AWAY

Erlanger trustees have forced out each of the past three chief executive officers and paid them all severance.

* Jim Brexler

CEO December 2003-December 2011

Severance: $728,000 over 15 months

* Dennis Pettigrew

Erlanger CFO September 1997-March 1998; COO March 1998-October 1998; CEO October 1998-February 2003

Severance: $131,000 (awarded in settlement of lawsuit seeking $380,000)

* Sylvester "Skip" Reeder

CEO November 1994-March 1998

Severance: $516,000 over two years

Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson, former interim CEO of Erlanger Health System and longtime hospital executive, has not retired, not resigned, not been fired — but she is no longer employed by the hospital.

While Woodard-Thompson has been formally on a leave of absence since new CEO Kevin Spiegel took the helm of the hospital in April, her last day with the hospital was June 23. Erlanger confirmed her final departure Wednesday.

"The approved leave ended, and her employment ended at the same time," Gregg Gentry, Erlanger's chief administrative officer, said Wednesday.

Retirement benefits still are available to Woodard-Thompson upon her request, he said.

Woodard-Thompson said Wednesday that for her, the formal end to her two-decade employment with Erlanger came out of the blue.

"I was surprised to get a notice that my employment was terminated," she said. "I had no definite retirement plans at all. Now there's not much plan but to retire."

She said that in April, she and hospital officials agreed that her accumulated leave would be extended until after she had a planned surgery performed and recuperated. Surgery for her medical condition -- a procedure she said she had previously "delayed because I had to take care of Erlanger" -- was scheduled for July.

Gentry said a third-party vendor handles all notifications about leave timelines and allotments.

A job listing for a new Erlanger COO -- Woodard-Thompson's former position before being appointed interim CEO last year -- was posted the same week as her departure.

Woodard-Thompson has been with the hospital for 21 years, serving as interim CEO twice, and holding the positions of both chief of human resources and chief operating officer.

When she first was appointed interim CEO after Dennis Pettigrew's departure in 2003, she was the first woman to serve in the position.

Eight years later, she was appointed to the position again after then-CEO Jim Brexler resigned in 2011. She held the job for a year, and later applied for the permanent position. Despite a large public showing of support from physicians, she did not make the short list of candidates. Hospital trustees hired Spiegel for Erlanger's top post earlier this year.

Woodard-Thompson said the months leading up to the CEO appointment ended a positive career on a bitter note.

"You don't go back to a place that has treated me the way they have treated me. ... I had never, ever, ever had any negative issue with Erlanger," she said. "I know we're on the road to have that place turned around and on solid ground for a long time. And employees knew it, too. They were working very hard. We were changing a lot of procedures for the better. But different people had different agendas."

While Woodward-Thompson is currently not on the hospital's payroll or benefits plan, officials are discussing the possibilities of a severance package, Gentry said.

"We are in discussions with Charlesetta about severance benefits," he said. "There are dialogues and discussions ongoing."

As interim CEO, Woodard-Thompson earned an annual salary of $486,720.

According to the posted job summary, Erlanger's new COO will "develop new business strategies to enhance market share and improve overall performance" and will have operational responsibility of the downtown Baroness Campus and oversight of other hospitals in the system. The COO will also act in the absence of the CEO.

"This will take an individual that is highly creative and who can eliminate unnecessary cost while continuing to deliver high quality care," the posting reads. "The successful candidate will have a track record of success working closely with physicians to improve operations and cost."

The salary for the job has not been posted.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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