Interim CEO takes up reins at Wellmont Health System

Rick Wagner • Jul 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — If the only true constant is change, Wellmont Health System is very constant these days.

Mike Snow, the new interim chief executive officer of the Sullivan County-based not-for-profit health care system, arrived in town Sunday and met with senior managers Monday.

Snow is temporarily replacing former CEO Dr. Richard Salluzzo.

After three and a half years at the helm of Wellmont, Salluzzo took a job heading a health care system in Cape Cod, Mass., near where his parents and daughter live.

“I’m looking forward to being here. Wellmont enjoys a good reputation outside this region,” Snow, of Birmingham, Ala., said in a Monday interview, emphasizing that Wellmont is quality focused and patient centered.

The health system also recently transitioned to new board of directors chairman, Roger Mowen, following the June 30 expiration of the two-year term of the former chairman, Lee Shillitto.

“We obviously have gone through two transitions in a very short period of time,” Mowen said. “But we’re focused on patient care, and that focus is not going to change.”

Mowen, Snow and Shillitto in Monday afternoon interviews emphasized that all these changes should have no negative impact on patient care.

“The difference they will see in patient care will be no difference,” Mowen said.

In the long run, they said, these changes — coupled with the expected hiring of a permanent CEO in six months or less — should improve health care for the region.

Salluzzo finished up his work for Wellmont last Tuesday but returned Saturday for a final meeting with Wellmont officials.

Snow arrived in Kingsport Sunday from his home in Birmingham, never having met Salluzzo but knowing him by his reputation.

Mowen said because of the lack of overlap, he is “kind of acting as the transition of knowledge” in the transfer.

He said Snow and the staff went over the three-year strategic plan and the one-year operations plan.

“We will get a clean and good assessment if there is improvement opportunity in the plans,” Mowen said of Snow’s expertise as a veteran health care executive from outside Wellmont.

Aside from having Snow commit to the interim post until a permanent replacement is found, the board also has asked Snow to join the interview committee that hired him when it starts interviewing the seven or eight finalists for the permanent position, Mowen said.

Snow said he was happy to oblige in the process, which Mowen said on average takes about six months.

“I think the interview team is committed to beat the average,” Mowen said.

However, the board first must select a search firm and develop a set of criteria for the permanent CEO. Mowen said Wellmont, which markets itself as a physician-led business, will seek input from doctors on the board and possibly elsewhere in the system.

Snow has had a 28-year health care career. He was president of HCA’s Gulf Coast Division in Houston, overseeing a division with revenues of more than $2 billion a year and more than 12,000 employees.

In 2004, he became chief of HealthSouth Corp., and in 2007 he became president and CEO of Surgical Care Affiliates, which had been HealthSouth’s surgical services division. He made a planned departure from that position early this year and moved into a full-time board role with that organization.

Wellmont just finished the $13 million remake and expansion of the Bristol Regional Medical Center Emergency Department, a Level 2 trauma center, and has the $100 million Project Platinum project ongoing at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport.

Holston Valley, a Level 1 trauma center, is getting an expanded Emergency Department and new patient tower, although the number of licensed beds is to remain about the same.

The two hospitals are the flagships of Wellmont, which also includes hospitals in Rogersville and Southwest Virginia and has affiliations with other facilities.

“There is nothing as significant on our plate as far as Project Platinum,” Mowen said of Wellmont’s plans in the foreseeable future.

Snow toured Holston Valley’s campus Monday afternoon and this morning is scheduled to tour Bristol Regional, followed by a planned afternoon visit to Lee Regional Medical Center and some of Wellmont’s other Southwest Virginia facilities.

For more information visit www.wellmont.org.

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