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HSHS Sacred Heart Eyes Growth Strategy As Ex-CEO Considers Options

By Steven Porter  
   January 12, 2018

The Wisconsin-based nonprofit system announced this week that it had parted ways with its CEO, who praised the team she’s leaving behind.

The interim leadership team at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis., plans to pick up the pace in implementing its growth strategy, after the sudden departure this week of CEO Julie Manas.

Mary Starmann-Harrison, president and CEO of the Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS), which operates 15 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin, stepped in as Sacred Heart’s interim CEO when the communications team released a statement late Tuesday indicating Manas is “no longer with the organization.”

The statement explained the hospital is “moving in a new direction,” and Starmann-Harrison expounded on that direction in an interview Wednesday with local TV station WEAU.

“We know that we have lots of opportunity and lots of care coordination in this market, and we just didn’t see that—we wanted to see that happen faster. And so that’s an important thing to us,” she said. “We want to move as quickly as we can to develop and expand our services in this market.”

It’s relatively rare for a hospital CEO to lose his or her job in such an abrupt fashion.

Last year, for example, the Chicago-based firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. counted 107 departures of CEOs from U.S. hospitals—most of whom retired, left for another job, or completed their time in an interim position.

Only six of the CEOs were openly terminated, replaced, or embroiled in a scandal, according to the firm’s 2017 report released this week. (Another 30 were listed as having resigned, stepped down, or otherwise departed without explanation.)

The leadership change at Sacred Heart comes as the hospital faces financial pressure on multiple fronts, some unique to the local market and others affecting hospitals and health systems nationwide. Last fall, Sacred Heart’s longtime partner Marshfield Clinic Health System opened a new hospital and cancer center nearby that seems poised to adversely impact Sacred Heart’s operation, as the Leader-Telegram reported.

Although the system has not set a timeline for hiring Manas’ successor, the search process has begun, with plans to conclude it quickly, as The Chippewa Herald reported.

When asked by HealthLeaders Media about her sudden departure and future plans, Manas offered well-wishes to HSHS personnel and affirmed the organization’s charitable mission.

“I’ve been blessed to serve Hospital Sisters Health System’s ministry for the last six years and leave behind an incredible team,” she wrote in an email Thursday evening. “I’m certain of their continued success in taking excellent care of the community, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

“I’m looking forward,” Manas added, “to the next chapter of my career as I consider other executive leadership opportunities.”

Steven Porter is editor at HealthLeaders.


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