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Analysis

Willis-Knighton CEO Contract Extended Despite Retirement Plans, 'Attempted Coup'

By Steven Porter  
   April 10, 2019

The board gave James K. Elrod two more years at the health system's helm, despite the 81-year-old CEO's retirement plans announced amid controversy.

Eighteen months have passed since the medical executive committee of Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana, urged the board to force President and CEO James K. Elrod to either step out of his longtime leadership position voluntarily or be pushed.

The committee's statement of no confidence in a letter to the trustees complained that Elrod failed to tolerate dissent and hadn't responded appropriately to changes in the healthcare industry, as the Shreveport Times reported, describing the incident as "an attempted coup."

Elrod was 80 at the time. He had worked for the organization more than 50 years and turned what was an 80-bed hospital into what became Louisiana's largest health system. He weathered the criticism with backing from the board. Then he signaled in a letter to hospital staff that a succession planning process for his likely successor was underway.

Despite the controversy, the board announced Friday that it asked Elrod, now 81, to stay at his post for another two years.

"After taking some time to consider our vote, Mr. Elrod graciously agreed to delay his retirement plans," board president Frank Hughes, MD, said in a statement describing Elrod as "our greatest advantage" in the face of uncertainty and change.

"This is a clear indication of his ongoing dedication and commitment to Willis-Knighton, and we are grateful for this decision," Hughes added. "While we are pleased with the current senior leadership team assembled during the past 18 months, we felt that the greatest gift we could give them is additional time for mentoring and guidance. We made this decision in support of our physicians, our employees and the larger community."

“While we are pleased with the current senior leadership team assembled during the past 18 months, we felt that the greatest gift we could give them is additional time for mentoring and guidance.”

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


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The longtime CEO signaled in 2017, after a push for his ouster, that his likely successor would be recruited to the health system so he could retire.

The board decided keeping the same leader in place for another two years would be 'our greatest advantage' in the midst of change.


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