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UNC seeks hospital CEO candidates

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Interim President and CEO Ian Buchanan sits in his office Tuesday at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount.

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By AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Nash UNC Health Care may have a permanent CEO by the first of the year, the interim CEO of the hospital said Tuesday.

Ian Buchanan, who stepped into the role as interim CEO earlier this month, sat down with the Telegram to explain what the CEO search process will look like under the partnership agreement between Nash General Hospital and UNC Health Care. This is the first time the hospital has had to look for a new CEO since Nash joined the UNC system in 2014 and only the fourth time a CEO search has been needed in its 50-year history.

Soon after the hospital announced that long-time CEO Larry Chewning was leaving, a representative from the UNC Health Care System, which pays the CEO salary, said UNC Health Care would be providing Nash UNC Health Care with a new CEO. However, Buchanan clarified that statement was made in reference to the interim CEO position.

“Under the terms of the management agreement that Nash has with UNC Health Care, UNC provides an interim CEO. Otherwise, Nash would have had to name someone internally or they would have had to go to a national firm that provides interim executive leadership in health care,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan juggles two important roles in the UNC Health Care organization. While serving three days a week in Rocky Mount, he also maintains his position as senior vice president of operations of UNC hospitals.

“My number one priority while I am here is to make sure that we are preparing the way so that a new CEO has the best possible chance for success,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said UNC Health Care will aid in the search process for a new CEO, but that the Nash UNC Health Care Board of Commissioners will make the final determination as to who is hired.

“UNC does not choose a CEO independently,” Buchanan said. “What we provide are the mechanics of finding a new CEO. Because we are plugged into the health care landscape in a way the board here isn’t on a state and national level, we can tap into a lot of our colleagues across the country, identify good candidates and identify candidates which might not be a good fit for this role.”

“So in broad strokes, there is a selection committee that is composed of members of the hospital board of directors — not UNC. That committee will have one representative from UNC Health Care, but the rest will be from the hospital board.”

Hospital board Chairman Jim Lilley said the search subcommittee is comprised of a diverse group of board members representing the physician community and the general community and serves as a screening group to narrow down the list to the final candidates. Once the short list of candidates has been determined, the full board will interview the final candidates and will make the decision as to whom to hire.

However, the CEO will technically become an employee of UNC Health Care, Buchanan said, and will be paid through Rex Hospital, the only private hospital in the system. This payment arrangement makes CEO salaries and benefits packages immune to public scrutiny, the Telegram learned in July.

Buchanan said he is hopeful the CEO search process will be short since Nash UNC Health Care should attract good candidates.

“This is a very desirable job,” Buchanan said. “It’s a nice size hospital. Candidates will be looking for a supportive board. They will be looking for financial stability in the organization. They will be looking for nice physical infrastructure, and this organization has all that — so I think we will be able to capture good candidates and we would certainly hope to have someone onboard by around the first of the year. That would be ideal.”

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