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Analysis

Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel's Fate Uncertain After Special Board Meeting

By Steven Porter  
   September 03, 2019

Facing criticism from system physicians, the CEO defended his leadership and successes.

Board members for Chattanooga, Tennessee–based Erlanger Health System held a special public meeting last week to discuss physicians' criticism of the organization's senior leadership.

The trustees decided not to vote during Thursday's meeting on the future of President and CEO Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE, because one of the 11 members was absent and two were participating via phone call, as Elizabeth Fite reported for the Times Free Press. But they did hear from Spiegel and various stakeholders.

Spiegel highlighted a list of successes Erlanger has enjoyed with him in its top executive job, and he touted the system's current financial position as the strongest it's ever been, as the Times Free Press reported.

"We want to see Erlanger go to the next level, and I'm prepared to lead that, and I want to see everybody here join me," Spiegel added.

The current flare-up between Erlanger's senior leaders and physicians stemmed from the 11-member medical executive committee's vote of no-confidence in several executives, including Spiegel. The committee informed the board chair of that vote with a letter in May that Fite reported in June for the Times Free Press.

The paper's left-leaning opinions editor, Pam Sohn, wrote in a column Saturday calling on Erlanger's board to engage in a more substantive discussion about the physicians' concerns.

"Spiegel trades in vision and talk of expansions," Sohn wrote. "He steered the hospital on a $40 million building campaign for the first phase of a 'new' Children's Hospital. ... As smaller hospitals across the state closed after Tennessee didn't expand Medicaid, Spiegel's 'expansion' mindset benefited. Six years after his hire, Erlanger has become the nation's 10th largest public hospital and seen a 92% increase in net patient revenue, market share growth and improved bond ratings."

"After the no-confidence vote, Spiegel, who now makes $964,000 a year, attributed some of the concerns to that very growth and expansion, and that's certainly true," Sohn added. "But where was the necessary on-the-fly planning to make room for the onslaught of new patients? Where were the needed additional nurses?"

The meeting came shortly after Erlanger incated that its executive vice president and chief operating officer, Rob Brooks, had "separated from the organization."

Related: 3 Strategies That Built Erlanger's Culture of Growth

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The medical executive committee issued a vote of no-confidence last spring criticizing the CEO and other executives.

Journalists with the Times Free Press have prodded the conversation along, urging the system to facilitate more public dialogue.


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