Friday, December 15, 2017
Health

Former Tampa General Hospital CEO says finances played a role in his ouster

Former Tampa General Hospital CEO Jim Burkhart was pushed out by the hospital's board of directors, he told the Tampa Bay Times late Wednesday.

"The board wants to make a change and boards have the prerogative to make a change," Burkhart said. "That's part of being in the business. I respect that."

He declined to discuss the reasons for his removal, saying only that the hospital's finances had played a role. Burkhart characterized TGH's financial position as stable, but said the board had concerns.

"They would like to see the finances be better because we're in an environment where you are trying to build a health care system," he said.

Board chairman John A. Brabson Jr. did not return calls from the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.

Unaudited financial statements from October obtained by the Times show Tampa General's revenues and expenses were consistent over the last fiscal year.

Burkhart's forced resignation Tuesday ended his four-year tenure at the hospital. He had been hired partly to chart a strong financial course for TGH, one of the last standalone hospitals in the region.

He also was charged with improving Tampa General's strained relationship with its primary teaching partner, the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.

On Wednesday, USF medical school dean Charles Lockwood said Burkhart had achieved that goal, bringing the two institutions "closer than ever."

"We're tied at the hip," Lockwood said. "We'll sink or swim together."

Lockwood said he and Burkhart had "worked really well together." He added: "Their board is their board, and they make their own decisions."

Lockwood plans to play an active role in the search for Burkhart's replacement.

"We are going to work hard to ensure (the next CEO) has a clear vision of what an academic medical center should look like and can continue to build on the big-time progress we've achieved," he said.

He also hopes the board will select a candidate who "focuses on working with the doctors to provide the highest quality of care," he said.

In the meantime, executive vice president and chief financial officer Steve Short will serve as acting CEO.

The hospital is "in good hands," said Ron Hytoff, who served as chief executive from 2000 until his retirement in 2013.

"I'm not worried," Hytoff said. "It has a good board and Steve is a fantastic leader."

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

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