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Tuesday, August 22, 2017 1:00 am

CHS names president for Lutheran Health

Local doctors say they weren't consulted

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

A significant transition is official ... but not necessarily popular.

Community Health Systems has appointed Mike Poore regional president of Lutheran Health Network, officials announced Monday.

Poore has been interim CEO since mid-June, when Brian Bauer was ousted from the job. Although Bauer was also CEO of Lutheran Hospital, CHS has not named Poore to permanently fill that position, which remains open.

Poore has almost 30 years of experience in hospital administration and was most recently operations vice president for CHS' Professional Services Corp. He has also been CEO of hospitals and health systems in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

CHS spokeswoman Tomi Galin said Poore will move his family to Fort Wayne.

In May, CHS announced plans to invest $500 million in Lutheran's network over the next five to six years. Although skeptics doubt the debt-laden company will be able to fulfill that promise, Poore has been charged with overseeing the capital upgrades.

Tim Hingtgen, CHS president and chief operating officer, praised Poore in a statement.

“Under Mike Poore's leadership, Lutheran Health Network is accelerating its progress on key operational and strategic initiatives,” Hingtgen said. “His breadth of experience and strength of leadership will support the network's continued growth in quality and service to the community.”

The company has “some great opportunities to advance and expand health services” in the region, Poore said in a news release.

“Lutheran Health Network is a dynamic health system with a proud tradition of service and innovation,” he said in a statement. “I am excited about the opportunity to support our employees and physicians and to promote their firm commitment to quality patient care across our community.

“It is inspiring to work with the people who are part of Lutheran Network because it is very clear that they care deeply about their patients,” Poore continued.

Some CHS critics have accused the company of being out of step with workers in the Lutheran network's eight hospitals, however. Monday's news didn't ease those tensions.

Dr. Andy O'Shaughnessy, a local physician who treats kidney patients, is among those who question whether Poore is right for the job.

In an op-ed column published June 30, O'Shaughnessy said CHS misunderstands the culture and ethos of the local network, which also includes various physician practices and clinics. 

O'Shaughnessy, who is a member of Lutheran Hospital's advisory board, noted that CHS officials didn't ask for input on the decision to put Poore in the job on a long-term basis.

“We're on a board of advisers to a company that clearly doesn't want advice,” he said Monday. 

Dr. Todd Rumsey, a local OB-GYN who resigned from Dupont Hospital's board of directors in July, said Poore hasn't made an effort to build a relationship with him. 

“He has never spoken to me independently. Even when I was on the board,” Rumsey said in an email.

Rumsey treats patients at both Lutheran and Parkview Health-owned facilities. He was one of 10 local doctors who this year pushed CHS to sell its ownership stake in Lutheran's network to a private equity group.

Lutheran staff has complained publicly about what it describes as neglect by the Franklin, Tennessee-based company. 

Bauer, who was named the network's CEO in 2013, was caught between Lutheran staff and the parent company.

Local doctors and staff strenuously supported Bauer. Their loyalty might have been too enthusiastic because CHS officials weren't satisfied that Bauer was loyal to them.

“Bauer has made meaningful contributions over the past several years, but current circumstances put him in an untenable position and he is unable to continue in his leadership role,” CHS said when announcing Bauer's departure.

Doctors and staff aren't the only ones criticizing CHS management. On Monday, the head of ASL Strategic Value Fund, which holds CHS stock, wrote an open letter to the company's board calling for it to fire CEO Wayne Smith.

Steven Braverman, ASL's managing partner, called on the board to take immediate action.

“Management's previous missteps have resulted in billions of dollars of shareholder losses, all the while reaping tens of millions of dollars in compensation,” he wrote.

Braverman said he wrote the open letter after multiple calls to the company weren't returned.

sslater@jg.net