Repeating a developing theme in the merger and acquisition game, another hospital executive has jumped to the corporate ranks at Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. after the for-profit chain made a play for the executive's hospital.
This time it's Vicki Romero, who last week was appointed to the newly created position of president of the Baton Rouge market within Columbia's Louisiana division.
Romero, 42, was president and chief executive officer of 234-bed Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, with which Columbia unsuccessfully attempted to form a joint venture in late January.
About a month after the board of the foundation that operates the hospital voted down a proposed joint-venture deal with Columbia, Romero unexpectedly resigned to pursue "new challenges and opportunities." Romero had supported the deal with Columbia.
Although Romero was to stay at Woman's Hospital through March, the foundation appointed Teri Fontenot, 42, as its new president and CEO, effective March 11 (March 18, p. 12).
In an interview last week with MODERN HEALTHCARE, Romero said there was no financial incentive or promise of a job with Columbia regarding her support of the joint-venture proposal.
"The only tie between the Columbia deal and me was the fact that I got comfortable with Columbia and gained trust in its leadership and vision for healthcare," she said. "Columbia's values are closely aligned with my own."
Romero also said pairing Woman's Hospital with Columbia isn't a dead issue, and one of her priorities will be to keep the lines of communication open between the two parties.
"The likelihood of a partnership of Columbia and Woman's Hospital is better with me at Columbia," she said. "I'd like to see the two get together."
Romero was a 1991 MODERN HEALTHCARE*"Up & Comer," or rising young executive. The path she followed to Columbia was blazed by several hospital executives before her. The most recent example is Nick Hilger, who became head of Columbia's Chicago division earlier this month. He had been president and CEO of HealthOne, a Denver-based hospital system that entered a joint-venture arrangement with Columbia last fall.