ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran hospital administrator Kathryn Gillette on Thursday was named chief executive officer of Bayfront Health System, arriving as it joins a for-profit hospital chain.
Gillette comes to 480-bed Bayfront Medical Center, home to Pinellas County's only trauma center, after nearly three decades in hospital finance and operations in Florida.
She spent the past 13 years at hospitals in the for-profit HCA chain, a local competitor to Bayfront and its new owner, Health Management Associates. In Tampa Bay, she has worked at nonprofit Tampa General Hospital and its academic partner, the University of South Florida.
"I am not a clinician, so I defer to our physicians and nurses for that guidance," she said, describing herself as a hands-on operations manager. "You will find me in the hospital. You don't find me sitting behind the desk."
Gillette begins at Bayfront on April 1, the date its sale is expected to close. The 58-year-old mother of two grown children currently lives in the Orlando suburbs, but plans to move to St. Petersburg.
She said it's too early to discuss changes for Bayfront, slated to become the referral hub for a regional network of six smaller HMA hospitals.
Gillette will be market president for the network, whose hospitals each have their own CEO. Bayfront officials declined to disclose Gillette's salary.
"While hospitals today enjoy community relationships, those often are strengthened by system relationships — so that doctors and patients know that they have a referral network for that higher level of care," she said. "That's what those other hospitals can expect to receive from Bayfront."
The new network will be affiliated with the University of Florida's Shands HealthCare. Gillette said she was learning about what that relationship may look like.
She comes to Bayfront from HCA's Osceola Regional Medical Center, a 257-bed hospital in Kissimmee, where she has been CEO since 2010.
Ironically, Bayfront officials blame some of their financial woes on HCA's entry into the trauma care business.
Gillette's local experience also includes 11 years at Community Hospital in New Port Richey, another HCA hospital now called the Medical Center of Trinity.
She was Tampa General's chief financial officer for several years in the 1990s, during the transition of the region's largest hospital from a public to a private institution.
After leaving that position, she spent a year and a half as assistant executive director of the physician's group at USF Health, which criticized Bayfront's sale to HMA and the competition it introduces from the University of Florida.
HMA has pledged to invest $100 million in capital improvements at Bayfront in the first five years.
Gillette is taking over a hospital that has struggled for years, and expects to post an operating deficit of 6 percent for 2012. She said she didn't yet have targets for its bottom line.
"I want our employees and our doctors to feel — in any hospital that I have ever been in, including Bayfront — that they have a viable, productive organization that they work for and that is continued by good financial success."
Letitia Stein can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330.