March 19 marked the anniversary of the raid by federal agents on Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. hospitals and offices in El Paso, Texas, which signaled the launch of the government's massive fraud investigation of the nation's largest hospital chain.
Since then, Columbia has gotten a new top executive, a new mission and now maybe a new board.
At a speech last week before business students at Vanderbilt University, Columbia Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Frist Jr., M.D., said the company will make a major move in the next couple of weeks to rebuild its board.
After his speech, Frist wouldn't say whether he was referring to the impending retirement of two Columbia board members or a more drastic shake-up, possibly one affecting more board members.
Citing Securities and Exchange Commission prohibitions, a Columbia spokesman declined to say whether the company's board would shrink or expand.
But if the 10 seats stay intact on the board, Columbia might be looking for as many as five new members. The terms of T. Michael Long, Donald MacNaughton, Carl Reichardt and William Young all expire this year. Plus, one seat has been vacant since former CEO Richard Scott was ousted as a result of the second and more widespread group of federal raids on Columbia facilities last July.
Frist told MODERN HEALTHCARE that new board members would complement the style of current members. He added that negotiations with some of the new board candidates haven't been completed.
"They are all well-respected people from their fields" of work, Frist said, adding that he is used to having quality people from some of the nation's largest corporations on his boards.
Frist said details would be available in the company's proxy statement, expected to be filed with the SEC April 8. The company's shareholder meeting will be May 14.
Meanwhile, the Washington-based SEIU National Industry Pension Fund filed a preliminary proxy statement with the SEC nominating one of the agency's former commissioners, Steven Wallman, and a former HCFA administrator, Howard Newman, to Columbia's board.