Hutcheson Medical Center has a special place in Roger Forgey's heart.
He started his health care career there in 1972, when he worked as an orderly at Tri-County Hospital, as Hutcheson was known then, because it's owned by Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties.
Forgey hoped to get the troubled Fort Oglethorpe hospital on solid financial footing when he took over as Hutcheson's president and chief executive officer in February 2012.
"I care about this hospital," Forgey said. "It's like my home hospital. I've lived a mile away from here for most of my life."
The hospital's future was still unclear Thursday, when Hutcheson officials announced that Forgey would exit by Nov. 30.
Forgey is an employee of Chattanooga-based Erlanger Health System, and his tenure has been in limbo since August when Hutcheson's board decided to part ways with Erlanger and send out requests for proposals to find a new health care organization to run Hutcheson.
Forgey said he shared his plan to resign two months ago with Hutcheson board Chairman Corky Jewell.
"We made a decision that I would wait until after the bids were in before I would leave," Forgey said.
Proposals were submitted Oct. 24. Hutcheson officials won't say how many proposals were submitted or who submitted them. Under the Georgia Open Records Act, pending proposals aren't required to be disclosed until the final award of the contract is made, the project is abandoned, or the agency takes a public vote -- whichever comes first.
Board members reviewed proposals Wednesday night during a 90-minute closed-door session.
A decision is due Nov. 11.
"The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," Jewell said after the closed-door discussion.
Debt holding Hutcheson back
Forgey had hoped to get officials from the three counties to refinance the hospital's roughly $60 million debt through the sale of low-interest, long-term bonds.
"The debt is what keeps Hutcheson from being successful," he said.
"We did everything that we could have possibly done under the circumstances," Forgey said. "We didn't create the old debt. We turned the financials around. We did get the hospital to break even."
A hospital statement credits Forgey with "revitalizing hospital operations by rebuilding Hutcheson's core medical services of general surgery, cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, emergency medicine, hospitalist medicine, and expanding its outpatient presence with the addition of six new clinics."
The statement says Forgey "actively re-engaged the physician base and under his leadership, the medical staff has substantially grown. Financially, the hospital has shown remarkable improvement with the first positive monthly financial reports in over seven years and has experienced a $14 million improvement in the last two years."
Before his executive role at Hutcheson, Forgey served as Erlanger's chief administrative officer. During his 26 years at Erlanger, his work included helping to create its level one trauma center, the Life Force helicopter service and its regional stroke center.
"Roger has excelled in his leadership role at Hutcheson," Kevin M. Spiegel, president and CEO of Erlanger Health System, said in a statement. "We look forward to having him continue to use his considerable skills and talent as part of Erlanger's executive team."
Forgey said he expects to return to Erlanger if he and Spiegel can find a role for Forgey that both are comfortable with.
He said he'll stay at Hutcheson up until Nov. 30, if necessary, to help orient an interim CEO, who is expected to be named soon.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.