The Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital is offering its top job to California-based turnaround specialist Jeff Nelson after the territorial hospital board interviewed Nelson and approved the offer during a special meeting Friday.
“What he does is go into health care facilities that are struggling and turn them around,” said Luis Hospital Governing Board Chairman Valdemar Hill, when asked after the vote why Nelson stood out from other candidates. “He works not only with health care staff, but also with government officials and the community to develop strategies for turning things around,” Hill said. “So we are really hopeful he will do for us what he has done elsewhere in the past.”
Territorial board Chairwoman Lynn Millin-Maduro agreed with Hill, saying Nelson had a lot of experience taking troubled hospitals and bringing them around to profitability, while improving care.
“He has had to do this in the past and has done so successfully,” Millin-Maduro said.
With the help of CEO headhunting company The Chandler Group, Luis Hospital has been searching for a new CEO since Gregory Calliste resigned in mid-2009 to take a position with a New York hospital. Darice Plaskett has been acting CEO in the interim.
Luis Hospital's governing board tentatively settled upon Nelson during its Dec. 21 meeting and was waiting to allow the territorial board to meet and vote to approve or disapprove the selection before making a formal job offer. The territorial board is a joint body composed of members of the Luis Hospital and Roy Lester Schneider Regional Medical Center's governing boards tasked with overseeing V.I. health facilities.
The board convened shortly after 10 a.m. in the V.I. Port Authority Conference Center at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport and almost immediately went into executive session, citing provision of V.I. law allowing closed meetings for personnel matters. Members interviewed Nelson for well over an hour, then sent him out while they discussed it amongst themselves for another hour, before leaving executive session and holding a public vote.
Luis Hospital is offering Nelson a three-year contract at a salary of $310,000 - the same salary as Schneider CEO Alice Taylor. Should he accept the offer, he would start work Jan. 24.
Voting yea were Hill, Millin-Maduro, St. Thomas board Chairman Cornel Williams, acting Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Carmelo Rivera, Aldria Harley-Wade, Finance Commissioner Angel Dawson, Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb, Imelda Dizon and R. Miles Stair. Gretta Hart-Hyndman abstained. Absent were: Maria Tankenson-Hodge, Dr. Murli Daswani and Joyce Heyliger.
Nelson left the building prior to the vote and was unavailable for comment. According to his resume, he was most recently CEO of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, Ca. from 2007 to 2009.
During his tenure, he purportedly brought that 434 bed, 1,500 employee comprehensive hospital to profitability within four months and increased its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (essentially revenue minus operating expenses) by $12 million in less than two years, according to his resume. The medical center he was running ranked in the top 10 nationwide for patient care quality in stroke care, general surgery and obstetrics. And he boosted patient satisfaction scores while reducing operating costs per admission.
His average tenure at a hospital is three to four years, and he has typically left for similar turnaround roles at new, struggling institutions. Since 2004, he has been a principal in Tatum LLC, a financial consulting firm.
Hill and Millin-Maduro both said Luis Hospital and its consultants did extensive background checks on Nelson, and that the candidate had requested a Federal Bureau of Investigation background check on himself for them to peruse.
“This is not a Rodney Miller situation,” Millin-Maduro said, referring to the former Schneider CEO, who falsified his resume to hide a dishonorable military discharge and is facing a variety of criminal charges stemming from his time as CEO.
After the board voted to approve the job offer, it adjourned. The next meeting of the territorial board is scheduled for March 24 on St. Thomas.