WhidbeyHealth names interim CEO

— Created March 2, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

The Whidbey Island Public Hospital District board of commissioners has selected a company called HealthTechS3 Management to provide someone to fill the role as interim Chief Executive Officer of WhidbeyHealth, following the recent termination of CEO Ron Telles’ contract.

Should the board of commissioners approve a pending contract with HealthTechS3, that company would appoint Michael Layfield as WhidbeyHealth’s interim CEO. Layfield, an employee of HealthTechS3, is expected to begin work at WhidbeyHealth sometime this week, following contract approval by the board.

“The board and I are confident that HealthTech is the right partnership to help turn around the district’s financial position,” board president Ron Wallin said in a press release last week from WhidbeyHealth. “They have a track record of successfully supporting integrated critical access health care systems, while ensuring strategic goals and patient experience needs are met.”

According to WhidbeyHealth Marketing Manager Conor O’Brien, it is not unusual to hire a management company.

“What we are seeing now is a growing prevalence in small community, rural, critical access health care organizations to partner with a management services provider,” he said in an email to Whidbey Weekly. “These partnerships have a benefit beyond staffing needs. Services like operational assessments, productivity and staffing, purchasing and supply chain, revenue cycle, and more are available as part of the management agreement. Essentially, WhidbeyHealth gains access to the resources and leverage that the managed services provider has built.”

The proposed agreement with HealthTech is for $350,000 annually, paid in 12 equal monthly payments, with separate compensation for Layfield at an additional 30 percent, or $105,000, in salary and benefits. That adds up to $455,000 annually. Telles’ contract with WhidbeyHealth was $430,000 annually. It’s expected Layfield’s services would be necessary for approximately six months, but terms of the contract could still be adjusted, according to O’Brien.

“The district and board are currently in the process of finalizing the details of the proposal with HealthTechS3,” he said. “Until the agreement is finalized, fees and term may be adjusted.”

In mid-February, WhidbeyHealth announced the elimination of several administrative positions as part of an “organizational restructuring” plan to help improve the hospital district’s long-term financial stability. The announcement of Telles’ firing came a week later.

Like many other rural hospital districts around the country, WhidbeyHealth has been struggling financially. The interim Chief Financial Officer, Jim Childers, presented the district’s current financial status to the board of commissioners at February’s regular meeting. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC1XOeeIde0.) The added costs of the pandemic did not help the district’s financial situation.

“The high costs associated with the hospital district’s actions throughout the pandemic certainly contributed to the current financial difficulties,” said O’Brien. “In 2020, there was a significant financial impact for the year, with intermittent closure to many of our operating revenue generating services, like non-emergency surgical procedures, orthopedic care, rehabilitation care, sleep care, etc. It is a much more challenging environment for local rural health care than it has been in the past.”

According to last Friday’s press release Layfield has been selected by HealthTech to fill the CEO position because he has over 35 years of experience in the healthcare industry. But O’Brien said there is some flexibility should HealthTech’s pick not be a good fit.

“Mr. Layfield is an employee of HealthTechS3,” he said. “HealthTechS3 has other individuals in senior leadership positions within their company. When the board appoints HealthTechS3 as our management services partner, HealthTech will work to fulfill the district’s needs by placing Mr. Layfield at WhidbeyHealth based on our needs and the identified specific experience needed to address our needs. Should something not work, from a program implementation to personnel implementation, the management services company will regroup and deploy an alternative solution to meet the needs of WhidbeyHealth.”

HealthTechS3 is a 50-year-old company based in Brentwood, Tenn. It has clients across the U.S. O’Brien said members of the board, medical staff and administration reviewed the management services proposals and were united in their selection of HealthTech.

“[HealthTechS3 has] a superior track record of implementing successful and impactful change and has experience addressing and turning around challenging financial states.,” he said. “It is important to note that while the board believes Mr. Layfield will have success based on his track record, the district is not contracting with Mr. Layfield, but rather HealthTechS3 and the breadth of resources it has to support Critical Access health care like we have on Whidbey Island.”

Find more information at whidbeyhealth.org.