River Region CEO Clendenin resigns|[06/25/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2008

After seven years here, administrator says he’s headed back to Tennessee

Phillip Clendenin has resigned his post as chief executive officer of River Region Medical Center, a release from the hospital said this morning.

Clendenin, a Union City, Tenn., native and CEO of the hospital since July 2001, will pursue personal business interests in his home state. The move becomes effective July 23, hospital officials said.

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Brad Holland, chief operating officer since 2006, has been named interim CEO, and a national search will be conducted by River Region’s parent company, Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, the hospital said this morning.

“The decision to leave was a difficult one,” said Clendenin, 44. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the dedicated employees, physicians and volunteers of River Region.”

Clendenin said this morning that he plans to use his 21 years of administrative experience in his next venture.

“We will have a few toes (in the medical field) and several toes outside it,” he said.

Clendenin said an additional factor in his decision was moving his three elementary school-age children closer to the family of his wife, Mitsy, in Tennessee.

“We’ve been incredibly active in this community and Vicksburg has been our home away from home,” he said. “But (the move) will get our kids closer to our families.”

Both have been active in the community, serving on various charitable boards. He has supported the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the YMCA board of trustees and the Vicksburg Rotary Club. Mitsy Clendenin serves on the advisory panel for the Southern Cultural Heritage Center and the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.

“Vicksburg is a fantastic community. People care a lot about taking care of others. If you open up your arms, you will be embraced here,” Clendenin said.

Clendenin’s departure is the most significant in a string of changes at the U.S. 61 North facility since late 2006, when its acute rehab and post-acute-care unit at River Region West on North Frontage Road was closed. Promise Specialty Hospital, an entity separate from River Region, now provides those services in the same facility.

In 2007, the medical center’s then-corporate parent, Triad Hospitals Inc., merged with CHS. Later that year, its lone cardiovascular surgeon was replaced by a five-person rotation of physicians with Jackson-based Cardiovascular Surgical Group.

This year, the hospital confirmed it will move its Marian Hill chemical dependency treatment center from the former ParkView Regional site on McAuley Drive to the former acute care unit’s space on the third floor of the West Campus. Clendenin said the renovation involved will be a $1 million undertaking and is expected to begin in early fall.

The hospital also is considering a rotation of physicians to supplement the emergency room staff, much like the move in the cardiovascular area.

Separately, a longtime internist at River Region’s Vicksburg Clinic, Dr. Paul “Bill” Pierce III, announced at the end of May that he will move his practice to the former Sack & Save grocery site on South Frontage Road as part of Central Mississippi Medical Center’s move into the Vicksburg health-care market.

Construction is under way at the site to accommodate internal medicine and family practice services, which will include testing capabilities including X-rays and CT scans.

Clendenin’s tenure at the hospital began as the hospital opened its doors in February 2002, replacing ParkView in a near-consolidation of medical services in Vicksburg and Warren County.

The main hospital is 391,196 square feet and serves residents in Vicksburg and Warren County, as well as those in Issaquena, Sharkey, Claiborne, Yazoo and western Hinds counties, and residents in Louisiana as far west as Delhi.

A decision on whether River Region will provide non-emergency care to Medicaid patients from Louisiana is expected in July, officials have said. Disputes over reimbursement rates stem from state law there.

Credited to Clendenin’s leadership in the release were such additions as The Heart Center at River Region, a 14-bed cardiac care unit opened in 2005, and a new outpatient angiography suite in early 2007, which includes the highly touted 64-slice CT scanner.

“Phillip has been a true leader at River Region and has made a significant impact on our hospital and community during his tenure here,” said Hal Gage, president of the hospital’s board of trustees.

“Phillip has done a tremendous job ensuring that River Region is poised for success and growth as we move forward,” said David L. Miller, president of Division I operations for CHS.

CHS sold nine hospitals in Arkansas, Alabama, Oregon and Tennessee to another Franklin, Tenn., firm, Capella Healthcare, for about $315 million. Published reports attributed the sale to reducing outstanding debt stemming from the merger with Triad totaling more than $9 billion.

Recently, CHS’s stock prices have hovered around $33 a share. Also, the company has said it has raised rates on its managed care contracts.