David Bussone, the embattled president and chief executive officer of 683-bed Tampa General Hospital, quit last week after the chairman of the board called for his resignation.
Mr. Bussone, 47, had been Tampa General's CEO since July 1991. He was credited with modernizing management and patient care, increasing outpatient services and launching an HMO to compete in the managed-care arena.
But he had also been under heavy criticism from several board members since last year, when he laid off 213 of 3,700 employees to cut costs.
He also angered trustees and supporters at the University of South Florida last year when he supported the elimination of the university's orthopedic residency program at Tampa General.
Just three weeks ago, Mr. Bussone nearly lost his job after facing intense criticism from the board over his management style and mounting financial problems stemming from a June fire that gutted one-third of the 1.5 million-square-foot hospital.
While the hospital has lost $4 million in the four months since the fire, Tampa General is budgeted to finish the year with a $2 million profit on revenues of $500 million.
In the board meeting, several trustees repeated longstanding concerns that Mr. Bussone's secret agenda is to convert the state's second-largest public hospital into a private institution.
Mr. Bussone was unavailable for comment. His secretary said he cleaned out his office and left the day the announcement was made public.
Hospital Chairman Frank Fleischer said he asked Mr. Bussone two weeks ago to resign because his deteriorating relationships with physicians, trustees and the public made further service impossible.
Under the severance arrangement in his five-year contract, Mr. Bussone will be paid $210,000, which is equivalent to his annual salary.
Replacing Mr. Bussone as interim CEO was Fred Karl, who had been administrator of Hillsborough County, Fla., since 1990. A lawyer who has never worked in a hospital, Mr. Karl, 70, is a former Florida Supreme Court justice. Earlier this year, Mr. Karl announced he would retire as county administrator.
Several other events sparked concern by some board members that Mr. Bussone wanted to expand his power base at the hospital. Other board members, however, felt Mr. Bussone's proposals would ensure the hospital's future.
In June, Mr. Bussone proposed to increase his decisionmaking authority. His proposal, which was not acted on, would have enabled the hospital become more responsive to competition in the market.
For example, Mr. Bussone wanted to increase his spending authority to $3 million a year from $100,000.