Michael Wiechart has stepped down as CEO of RCCH HealthCare Partners just two days after the 17-hospital chain agreed to buy two hospitals from Ascension and four months after he guided Capella Healthcare into a merger with RegionalCare Hospital Partners.
Wiechart's duties and title are being assumed by Executive Chairman Marty Rash, the company announced Friday.
Brentwood, Tenn.-based RCCH was created in May through the $550 million merger of RegionalCare Hospital Partners, which had eight hospitals, and Capella, which had 10 hospitals.
Wiechart helped build Capella and was its top executive, while Rash was at the helm of RegionalCare. Private-equity Apollo Capital Partners, which is rumored to be interested in buying giant Community Health Systems, owns RCCH.
In a release Friday, Rash said the plan all along was for Wiechart to stay on during the merger transition, then depart. The company declined to comment beyond the release.
“There have been discussions since the beginning of the company about Mike staying through this integration before exploring other career interests. We have now reached a point where it was mutually determined it is the right time for this change,” Rash said in the release.
Earlier this week, Ascension announced that RCCH was buying two of its hospitals; Lourdes Health in Pasco, Wash., and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho. Terms were not disclosed.
RCCH is for-profit while Ascension is not-for-profit. Ascension, the national Catholic hospital giant based in St. Louis, said the two sides support maintaining the faith-based heritages of each hospital.
“RCCH works with communities to build strong local healthcare systems that are known for quality patient care and its values align closely with those of Ascension,” said Robert Henkel, executive vice president of Ascension.
RCCH is Apollo's first foray into hospitals. Shortly after struggling CHS confirmed this month that it has retained advisers to explore strategic options, Apollo was rumored to be looking at buying some or all of CHS's assets.
CHS is the nation's second-largest investor-owned hospital chain. It owns 159 hospitals. It is shedding hospitals to reduce debt and improve operating performance.