In a surprise move, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. last week tapped a top executive of a competing hospital chain to be group vice president of its single-hospital markets.
As part of its reorganization of management, Columbia named David White, chief operating officer and a director of Community Health Systems, to head the division.
"It's just a great opportunity to do a lot of what I've been doing in the past, but on a bigger scale," Mr. White said.
He joined Community Health in 1986, a year after its founding. As one of its top three executives, he helped it grow to 20 hospitals from eight in the past eight years. Community Health currently operates 19 hospitals in 12 states.
Mr. White, 46, will be in charge of 38 hospitals in markets where Columbia/HCA has only one facility. Before merging with HCA, Columbia typically sold hospitals that didn't fit its strategy of developing healthcare networks in urban markets.
However, with the appointment of Mr. White, it appears that those lone hospitals won't be routinely jettisoned.
"I'm coming on board with the full understanding that my role is to grow this area," Mr. White said. He starts with Columbia on March 28 and will be based at company headquarters in Louisville, Ky.
Mr. White has longstanding ties with several Columbia/HCA executives, most notably David Vandewater, its chief operating officer. The two were colleagues at Republic Health Corp., a Dallas-based hospital chain that later changed its name to OrNda Healthcorp.
Mr. White formerly was a senior vice president of Republic. Richard Scott, Columbia/HCA's president and chief executive officer, also has ties to Republic, serving as outside legal counsel to the firm during the early 1980s.
Mr. White is one of five group presidents. The others are Dan Moen, president of the Florida group, which has 49 hospitals; Gene Fleming, president of the Eastern group, which has 53 hospitals; and William Lievense, president of the international group, which has two hospitals. Columbia/HCA executives haven't yet selected a group president for its Western division.