Mission Hospital to begin search for new CEO

The president and CEO of Mission Hospital and Mission Health System, Western North Carolina's key health center and the region's largest employer, resigned recently amid tensions between hospital administrators and some staff members and physicians.

Joe Damore notified the hospital's Board of Directors on Oct. 27 that he would resign effective Jan. 31, 2010. The most recent publicly available documents about his compensation were filed with the Internal Revenue Service for the fiscal year ending September 2007. They show that his annual salary was $724,345 and that he also received $92,297 in contributions to an employee-benefit plan and deferred compensation.

Damore was working under a new five-year contract at the time of his announcement, and a hospital spokeswoman said that as a personnel matter, under state law any details about the dissolution of his contract would not be made public.

The board said it will begin a search for an interim leader and then move on to begin the process of finding a permanent replacement.

Mission Hospital is licensed for more than 800 beds and has a medical staff of more than 650 doctors. In 2007, it reported $1.2 billion in revenue.

Hospital board Chairman George Renfro praised Damore's five years of leadership at the hospital.

"Under Joe's leadership Mission has achieved national recognition for its outstanding clinical care and innovation, while maintaining a sound financial foundation for our growing health system," Renfro said in a written statement. "Joe has built upon our strong culture of quality, provided sound financial stewardship and has further developed Mission as an integrated regional health system advancing the well-being of the people who call Western North Carolina home."

But not everyone was happy with Damore's leadership. This past summer, 150 doctors representing a dozen medical practices signed a letter to the hospital board raising concerns about the hospital administration's handling of several initiatives and stating that the medical staff had a lack of trust in administrators. The doctors said they feared that the deterioration of collaborative efforts between physicians and administrators could harm the hospital's high level of patient care.

In response, the hospital board sent a letter to the physicians. The board wrote that "rumblings of physician concerns have been unmistakable. We apologize for perhaps being too slow to respond." It also announced the creation of a blue-ribbon committee to investigate. The committee's report came back in September.

In his statement, Renfro said that the board accepted the report from the special committee, which was formed in late July and which conducted interviews with more than 100 physicians and 19 members of the hospital's management team. The board will begin evaluating those recommendations, Renfro said.

"Mission is a healthcare system with nationally ranked clinical quality, a reputation as one of the best health systems in the nation for combining high quality and low cost, a stable financial outlook that has earned us continued AA ratings from all three major bond rating agencies, and long-standing community partnerships," Renfro said in the statement. "We will draw on these strengths as we continue to meet Western North Carolina's growing healthcare needs."

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3 thoughts on “Mission Hospital to begin search for new CEO

  1. Journalism Ethics Guy

    Should the reporter have reported on the role of his blog, AshVegas, in bringing about Damore’s downfall?

  2. AvlResident

    Xpress readers voted Health Care one of the “Most underreported” stories and you said “Xpress hears your cry: Look for more coverage of these issues in the year to come.” You never did do the big dig on what was going on at Mission Hospital. Could you not get people to talk on the record? There sure seemed to be a lot of credible sources who could have been given anonymity because they were afraid to jeopardize their employment. Now that the apparent villain of the piece is gone or going, could you please explain what it all meant? Citizen-Times told us it was “part of a national trend.” Is that the best analysis we’re going to get? Will you follow the search for a new CEO closely?

  3. Jon Elliston

    Journalism Ethics Guy:

    You ask an interesting question, but I’m afraid we just don’t know the answer. Did blogging help prompt the personnel change at Mission? Did newspaper or television reports? We can speculate, we just don’t know.

    AvlResident: We’ll continue to do more health-care reporting in the months to come, on Mission and other institutions of interest in our neck of the woods. He have a special health and wellness issue slated for January, along with other coverage we’ll do from time to time.

    Jon Elliston
    Mountain Xpress

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