St. Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, N.M., promoted former state health official Alex Valdez to replace CEO John Lucas, who is stepping down after almost five years. Lucas, a family practice physician who focused on quality improvement and revenue growth, says he resigned because he and the hospital's board agreed on the need for a leader who could lobby effectively for more government support. Lucas says the 185-bed not-for-profit hospital's operating margin has remained flat because of a higher-than-average level of uncompensated care. "What we have is a fundamental underfunding (of patient care)," says Lucas, who will continue to work at St. Vincent until his contract expires June 30.
St. Vincent fought unsuccessfully last year to block local government approval for construction of a physician-owned surgical hospital in Santa Fe. Valdez, 48, had served as the hospital's general counsel and vice president of government relations since September 2002. Previously he was secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health.