TAMPA — After a dozen years leading the area's largest hospital and bringing it back from the financial brink, Ron Hytoff, 66, announced his retirement as president and chief executive officer of Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday.
The 1,000-bed hospital, which employs nearly 7,000 people, is the area's only Level I trauma center and the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
David A. Straz Jr., chairman of the Florida Health Sciences Center, the governing body for the hospital, announced a nationwide search for a CEO would begin immediately. Hytoff will stay on until a replacement is found, or until June 2013.
Straz praised Hytoff for his role in moving TGH from a public institution that was losing millions of dollars a year, into a successful private, not-for-profit operation.
"Ron lifted TGH from the precipice of collapse and transformed it into the jewel it is today," said Straz, who also served as a member of the newly formed board created after privatization. "Many credits and accomplishments occurred on his watch, and for that I know the board and community will be eternally grateful."
Hytoff said the time felt right to step down after a 41-year career in hospital management.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to enjoy life to a different degree, to be able to spend time with family," said Hytoff, who became a grandfather last month. "My wife and I are looking forward to freedom."
And he plans to spend more time on another passion, piloting his single-engine Cirrus.
Hytoff came to TGH as chief operating officer in May 1997 and took over as CEO in February 2000. Since his arrival, the hospital's patient volumes doubled and net revenues more than tripled to $1.2 billion this year.
Before TGH, Hytoff was president and CEO at University of Louisville Hospital for six years.
Jay Wolfson, who chaired the search committee that hired Hytoff, praised him for his mastery of "the dynamics of finance, health care, governance and community relations."
"TGH would have been a very different place without him. It's unlikely it would have sustained itself as an independent entity without Ron Hytoff," said Wolfson, associate vice president for health law, policy and safety at USF Health.
Under Hytoff's leadership, Tampa General has been nationally recognized for the quality of its care. The transplant program this year became the fourth busiest in the country.
Hytoff also strengthened the hospital's relationship with USF Health, increasing funding, expanding resident training at the hospital and helping construct the USF South Tampa Center for Advanced Healthcare, a seven-story, medical office building that opened in August 2007.
"Ron's been a great friend to the university and having him leave is difficult," said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF medical school. "But he's been talking about this for a while and in this business it's unusual to have that kind of longevity."
The relationship has been tested in recent years by USF's desire to have its own teaching hospital. In 2009, Klasko's repeated assertion that people leave Tampa Bay in search of better health care drew a sharp rebuke from Hytoff and other hospital leaders.
"We don't always agree on everything," Klasko said Tuesday. "But he's always willing to talk about it."
Klasko said the hospital's relationship with the university is "the best that it's been in my time here."
Hytoff's last major challenge was converting to an electronic medical record system at a cost of more than $100 million, a multiyear process that was completed in October.
"I feel like I've accomplished a great deal here," Hytoff said.
But challenges are ahead, especially the latest 5.6 percent cut to Medicaid payments for poor patients, on top of last year's 12.5 percent cut. "When you add it up, that became a $30 million revenue hit to us," Hytoff said.
While avoiding layoffs, the hospital has reduced its staff by about 250 through attrition.
Straz is confident the search for Hytoff's replacement will attract talented candidates.
"Since we're one of the best teaching hospitals in the country, No. 4 for transplants and in a good city with a good climate, I believe our problem will be having to sift through the many good applicants we'll have," he said.
Staff writer Irene Maher contributed to this report. Richard Martin can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3322