Charles Stark is proof that there is life after HealthSouth.
Stark, 42, a 1993 Modern Healthcare Up & Comer award winner and former senior vice president of scandal-plagued HealthSouth Corp., was named last month as president and CEO of Sandusky, Ohio-based Firelands Regional Medical Center. The 315-bed, not-for-profit system was formed in 2001 when two-hospital Firelands Regional acquired 170-bed Providence Hospital to become Sandusky's only acute-care provider.
Stark, who was selected by Firelands' board from among 78 applicants, is a Cincinnati native and 1983 graduate of Duke University's undergraduate and masters in health administration programs. He joined Birmingham, Ala.-based HealthSouth in 1991 after serving with Humana for six years, serving as associate executive director of Medical City Dallas Hospital, now owned by HCA.
He was CEO of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of (Richmond) Virginia, and later served as regional vice president of inpatient operations for Virginia and Maryland. Most recently he oversaw three HealthSouth acute-care hospitals in Florida and Alabama and led development of a digital hospital in Birmingham, a facility that has not yet been completed because of an ongoing government investigation into an alleged $4 billion HealthSouth accounting fraud.
Stark, who says he was not involved in the accounting schemes that have seen all of the company's former CFOs and several other executives plead guilty to criminal charges, was selected to serve on HealthSouth's compliance executive steering committee to oversee the company's new compliance program. Stark says it was "pretty disconcerting" to hear reports of the accounting irregularities.
"But what's encouraging is the way the board acted quickly to bring in (New York turnaround firm) Alvarez & Marsal to lead fiscal management, divest assets and institute employee-friendly policy changes," Stark says "Clearly there is an interest when people know you were a senior vice president of HealthSouth. But there were 15 misguided employees who committed illegal acts out of a company of 53,000 people. The other employees pulled together and said: `This is not who we are' and focused on patient care."