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Who's next at St. Vincent?

Who's Next At St. Vincent?

When A. Jack Reynolds steps down as president and chief executive officer of Little Rock's St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center at the end of the year, he will leave behind the state's second-largest hospital.

He will leave behind a state-of-the-art institution with the latest in medical technology.

He will leave behind a foundation with more than $10 million in assets.

He also will leave behind some big headaches.

He will say farewell to struggles with the federal government over Medicaid and Medicare funding, dime-a-dozen lawsuits, rising costs and endless searches for qualified health care personnel.

Reynolds, 60, says the headaches have become "more and more of an aggravation."

Who will now be reaching for the aspirin at St. Vincent?

The answer won't come soon.

A tentative deadline has been set for Jan. 1, but even Reynolds believes St. Vincent will be lucky to have a CEO in place by then.

John Hickman Sr., chairman of St. Vincent's board of directors, says there is no rush to replace Reynolds since Reynolds will be with the hospital in an advisory role through the end of 1992.

"We hate to see Jack leave, but, really, he's not leaving," Hickman says. "We have Jack's services until the end of |92, which will be invaluable to the new CEO."

A six-member search committee has been appointed to find the next Jack Reynolds. The members of the committee are:

* Hickman.

* Gene Fortson, vice chairman of the St. Vincent board and president and chief executive officer of Stebbins & Roberts Inc. of Little Rock.

* Sister Michael Leo Mullaney, president and chief executive officer of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Health Corp. of Louisville, Ky. The corporation owns and operates St. Vincent and six hospitals in Kentucky and Tennessee.

* Jerry Scott of Nazareth Health Corp.

* Dr. Mary Wiss, Nazareth board member.

* Dr. Hoyte Pyle Jr., St. Vincent board member.

Also involved in the search will be Heidrich and Struggles Inc., a Chicago-based search firm that will seek out and screen initial candidates.

"Heidrich will narrow it down to five or 10 applicants, and we'll go from there," Hickman says.

Ken Rattner is handling the search for Heidrich. He forwarded all questions to Sister Mullaney or members of the Nazareth board.

Nationwide Search

"If anyone within the corporation wants to apply, they may," Sister Mullaney says. "But it is a national search, and that means nationwide - within the corporation and elsewhere."

Reynolds was elevated from chief operating officer to replace Sister Margaret Vincent Blandford in 1988.

But observers say it is unlikely Reynolds' replacement will come from within.

"The preference is for someone with CEO experience," Sister Mullaney says.

But she quickly adds, "I know there was a hospital in St. Louis that was searching for a CEO and interviewed a number of capable candidates. They ended up promoting their COO. So it's possible."

Those at St. Vincent in the most likely positions to move up are Lee Frazier, executive vice president of operations, and Eldin Dingler, executive vice president and treasurer.

Pyle says neither has applied.

Pyle and other board members agree with Sister Mullaney that someone with experience as a CEO might be best for St. Vincent.

"It would be difficult for someone to move into that position without prior experience as CEO," Pyle says.

The board has held one meeting to outline the priorities for the new CEO. However, there is still some question as to the exact qualifications that will be required of Reynolds' successor.

Will it be someone with a for-profit or non-profit background?

Will it be someone from a hospital in a highly competitive market such as Little Rock?

Will it be a current CEO or a deputy director on the way up?

Out of State?

"There has been no clear-cut determination," says board member Gus Blass III. "There are some who want a CEO who is politically savvy with great fund-raising skills. Of course, the doctors want someone with a strong medical background.

"I think it will probably be October before we draw up the criteria."

Sister Mullaney says the search committee will not meet with representatives of the Heidrich firm until the middle of November.

"I'm sure they're looking for somebody with a strong administrative background," says Sheila Campbell, a Little Rock attorney who is a member of the St. Vincent board. "With government regulations so stringent now, if they don't find someone adept at that, they could have a casualty."

Blass thinks the new CEO will come from out of state.

More than 100 applications are expected from hospital administrators for a job that is considered a plum in the medical industry.

That's because St. Vincent is fiscally healthy.

The 691-bed, not-for-profit hospital, which employs 2,541 people, had an occupancy rate of 83 percent last year. It showed profits of $10,564,936, just less than Baptist Medical Center at Little Rock.

Having spent 25 years at St. Vincent, Reynolds can take much of the credit for the success.

Hickman says if he could pick a dream CEO, that person would be a Reynolds clone.

"I wish we could ditto Jack Reynolds," he says.

In lieu of that, what kind of leader is St. Vincent searching for?

"I can't answer that," Hickman says. "It may be a CEO at a smaller hospital with a good track record who fits what we're looking for.

"We're not looking for somebody to make a lateral move. We want someone on the way up."

The Obvious Choice

Reynolds joined St. Vincent in 1967 as associate administrator and was named administrator and chief administrative officer six years later.

At the time, Sister Blandford was chairwoman, president and CEO. By 1986, Reynolds had assumed the title of president and chief operating officer.

Upon Sister Blandford's Jan. 1, 1988, retirement, Reynolds was elevated.

A formal search was conducted, Hickman says, but Reynolds was the obvious choice.

Things are not so obvious this time.

"We have been so lucky before," Blass says. "There always has been somebody within the organization who you kind of knew would take over.

"It's not so clear-cut now."

Those at St. Vincent and the corporate headquarters at Louisville do not seem worried due to Reynolds' 15-month commitment.

If no successor is found by January, an interim CEO will be appointed by Nazareth with Reynolds as adviser.

Reynolds appears tired and admits frustration at running a hospital in the current economic and political climate.

"You get a little tired of it," he says. "I think there is some sort of cumulative effect. Ten years ago, I would have wrestled with it.

"Today, it's more and more of an aggravation."

Although not a member of the search team, Reynolds is expected to have some say in choosing his successor.

Ironically, Reynolds landed his first job at St. Vincent the old-fashioned way - through a newspaper classified advertisement.

If things were only so simple now.

PHOTO : OUTGOING CEO: A. Jack Reynolds recently announced his retirement as president and chief executive officer of St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center at Little Rock. Reynolds, whose last day as CEO will be Dec. 31, will remain at St. Vincent in an advisory role until the end of 1992.
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Title Annotation:St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center looks for a new chief executive officer
Author:Webb, Kane
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Sep 8, 1991
Words:1203
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