Wellmont officials announced late Wednesday afternoon that Snow, who served as interim president and CEO of Wellmont since July 2008, will succeed Dr. Richard Salluzzo. Salluzzo served as president and CEO after coming to Wellmont in 2004 but left the health system last year to take a similar job at Cape Cod Healthcare in Massachusetts.
Wellmont’s first CEO, Eddie George, served from 1996 to 2004.
The original plan was that Snow would be brought in as interim chief and help the system transition to a new CEO. But in the process the search committee amended its stance and considered Snow for the job.
“I really didn’t see myself standing here in front you eight months ago,” Snow said during a news conference at Wellmont headquarters. Snow added that he has become “emotionally invested” in Wellmont and the community since he took the helm of the regional hospital system.
Snow, 54, has more than 25 years of experience in health care business operations, including eight years as president of HCA’s Gulf Coast Division, an operating division of HCA with annual revenues of more than $2 billion and more than 12,000 employees.
In 2004, he was named chief operation officer of HealthSouth Corp., the nation’s largest provider of rehabilitative health care services.
When HealthSouth’s surgical services division converted to a stand-alone division in 2007, Snow became president and CEO of the newly created Surgical Care Affiliates, operator of 132 ambulatory surgery centers in 33 states. He stepped down in 2008 in a planned departure and became a board member for the group.
“My wife (Kandice) and I look forward to relocating here and calling this home,” Snow said. “Challenging times also present great opportunity.”
Snow graduated from the University of Alabama and Troy State University, earning a master’s degree in business administration from the latter.
Roger Mowen, chairman of the Wellmont board, credited the search committee with being flexible and agile enough to consider Snow when it became evident he was keeping Wellmont on a steady course amid down economic times and had the qualities need for a permanent leader of the system.
“The search committee had the wisdom to change the process and consider Mike Snow for the position of CEO,” Mowen said.
After the news conference, Mowen said that of more than 100 names submitted to a consultant, 13 applicants were given the first round of serious consideration, five plus Snow were chosen as semifinalists, and then two plus Snow were finalists.
The last group went before the committee, physicians, hospital board members and community leaders, and Snow got excellent reviews, Mowen said.
“We had to find the absolute right person,” Mowen said during the news conference. “In the end, we realized the CEO of Wellmont was already at hand.”
Snow said two issues affect the short-term and long-term future of Wellmont and health care in general.
One is the credit crisis and stock market downtown that has hurt almost all businesses, including health care ones.
“A lot of not-for-profit hospitals relied on investments for income,” Snow said, adding that Wellmont was no exception.
“We now have to live on money we generate from operations,” Snow said.
He said health care businesses will become more conservative and frugal.
The other, in the long term, is change in health care. Snow said he is excited about President Obama’s support for electronic medical records, already being pushed in this area by CareSpark, a regional health information organization.
Snow also said Wellmont is still on track to resolve its 2008 audit, which is overdue, by mid-2009. A recently released interim report indicated a new accounting firm found mistakes in financials but none that would result in problems with federal programs or charges of theft.
As for sometimes contentious relations with Wellmont’s chief competitor, Johnson City-based Mountain States Health Alliance, Snow said he has met with MSHA head Dennis Vonderfecht and that it is fair to say they are more cordial and collaboration between the two may be in the future.
“He (Vonderfecht) runs a class organization. He’s done a wonderful job with a hospital system,” Snow said. “We’re pretty good, too.”