Dr. Thomas Malone has resigned as president and CEO of Summa Health System, weeks after a contentious decision to not renew the contract of the independent physician group that had been staffing its emergency departments for decades.
That decision "is final and will remain unchanged," the board wrote in an internal memo announcing that it had received and accepted Malone's letter of resignation on Thursday, Jan. 26. Malone will continue as CEO of the Akron health system for up to 60 days as the board searches for his successor, according to the memo.
In his own internal memo to Summa employees, physicians and boards, Malone wrote that he is proud of what the system has accomplished in the last two years, "however, as I thought about what would be best for our organization moving forward, it became clear to me that my presence may be a distraction from our goals."
Summa's board also indicated that in conversations with Malone "it became apparent" that his continuation as CEO would be distracting for the organization's "forward progress." The board said in the memo that though its members accepted Malone's decision, they thanked and acknowledged him for the "tremendous growth and success" Summa Health achieved under his leadership, without which the system "would not be the thriving organization it is today."
Upon reaching an impasse in negotiations, Summa brought in new ED physicians at midnight on New Year's to replace Summa Emergency Associates, the independent physician group that had staffed the system's EDs for about 40 years.
The backlash from doctors, community members and beyond was vocal and swift. Hundreds of physicians voted no-confidence in Dr. Thomas Malone, Summa president and CEO.
Earlier this month, the board announced a series of steps giving it more direct oversight of administrative moves following the strong opposition. The moves included hiring an "executive coach" to report directly to the board, as well as creating an advisory medical staff panel, take on direct oversight for all physician contracts for the rest of 2017 and revise its contract renewal process "to avoid a repeat of the recent emergency department transition."
The board wrote in its Jan. 26 memo that it will continue to work with the physician advisory council established this month, but didn't specifically note any of the other initiatives.
"Rest assured, this board remains committed to pursuing the strategies that will maintain Summa Health's independence and strengthen the organization," the board wrote. "A strong Summa Health is vital to our community."
The board highlighted Summa's recent progress and achievements, including the launch of a $350 million facilities plan, the progression of its implementation of an electronic medical record system and ratings from Moody's Investor Service and Fitch Ratings.
Both the board and Malone emphasized their commitment to ensuring a smooth transition. In its search, the board will be looking for the best leader to continue Summa's vision "for population health, improving the health and wellness of our community while transforming the culture of our organization," according to the board memo.
"We share a passion for Summa Health and I am confident they will continue to execute the vision that we have worked so hard to establish together," Malone wrote. "I thank each and every member of Summa Health for what you do to serve our community every day. It has been my pleasure to work alongside you, and I will root for your continued success."
Malone has been with Summa since 2013 and has served as president and CEO since January 2015. He took over for Thomas Strauss, who just recently accepted a position as president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
"Malone resigns as Summa CEO" originally appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business.