Scott Hill hired as permanent top executive at Columbus Regional

Columbus Regional Health on Thursday said it has hired Scott Hill, its interim chief executive officer since Charles "Chuck" Stark's resignation in June, to operate the health-care and hospital system permanently. He becomes president and CEO.

Hill, 44, takes the helm of an organization going through major structural and branding changes and facing an evolving health-care environment with the national rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There was no lengthy search process for a new CEO, as had taken place when Stark succeeded longtime CEO Larry Sanders more than two years ago. Hill, who has known Stark for years, was hired by the CEO less than a year after Stark’s arrival here from Firelands Regional Health System in Sandusky, Ohio.

“The cultural changes that Chuck started here, quite frankly, are things that I believe in and have carried with me throughout our entire career,” Hill said Thursday after the announcement of his hiring.

Hill’s appointment was approved by the Columbus Regional board of directors, with its chairman Warren Steele saying he has “great confidence” in Hill and the system’s top executives moving forward. Midtown Medical Center, Northside Medical Center, Doctors Specialty Hospital and the John B. Amos Cancer Center are major facilities operated by the organization.

“These are exciting, but challenging times in health care, and Scott and his team will lead us with intelligence and assertiveness,” Steele said in a statement. “Our strategic plan is comprehensive, and with Scott’s leadership and the support of his leadership team, employees and our local physicians, our community will benefit from continually improving health care delivery.”

Hill had served as Columbus Regional Health’s chief operating officer since November 2012, with the system turning to him on an interim basis after Stark’s sudden departure in mid-June. Stark had headed Columbus Regional since February 2012. Stark told the board he planned to work in a new business venture started by his son, Conner.

Hill said he has talked with Stark a couple of times since his departure. He plans to stick with the strategic plan created and launched by Stark and his management team — an effort that included Hill — and one that came with changes unsettling for some. Moves included changing the names of the hospitals and the system itself. The Medical Center, Doctors Hospital and Hughston Hospital were renamed Midtown Medical Center, Doctors Specialty Hospital and Northside Medical Center, respectively. Columbus Regional Healthcare System simply became “Columbus Regional Health.”

Doctors Specialty Hospital’s emergency room was closed, with an urgent care center opening in its place. The hospital, adjacent to Midtown Medical Center, also stopped delivering babies. Midtown has done so for years, while St. Francis started baby delivery service last fall. Midtown also operates a regional trauma center.

The philosophy Stark put in place with the acronym, “ACE IT,” will remain well, said Hill, referring to the systemwide focus on “attitude, commitment, enthusiasm, innovation and teamwork.” Hill said he also used ACE while he was the CEO of LewisGale Hospital Montgomery in Blacksburg, Va.

“I have used that philosophy throughout my career, and it falls very much in line with what Chuck was trying to accomplish here from a cultural perspective and the investment we’ve made in our employees and our physicians and our facilities,” he said, reaffirming the system’s goal to be “nationally recognized for our clinical outcomes and world-famous service.”

Hill welcomed the confidence the board, the system’s physicians and its 2,800 employees have in him to effectively lead the organization through tough and challenging times for the industry nationally. He pointed to the decision to build an emergency department and expanded intensive care unit at Northside Medical Center as a move needed for the community. A certificate of need from the state has cleared the way for construction to begin.

“That’s a strategic priority for this organization,” said Hill, mentioning “opposition” to a new ER on the city’s north side. St. Francis Hospital and Midtown Medical Center both have emergency departments.

“We believe it’s a need when you look at both organizations, Columbus Regional and St. Francis,” he said. “The wait times are long and there’s a lot of utilization at both emergency departments. So to have a third emergency department in town at Northside Medical Center makes good sense for our community.”

Hill said a major challenge he faces as CEO is running a major health-care system at a time of intense pressure on the industry nationwide to become more cost efficient, while improving patient care and the overall customer service experience.

“As an industry we’re going through a lot of change,” he said, “and that change is requiring every health care organization in the United States to really look at the way they deliver health care services.”

Hill’s stint as CEO of LewisGale Hospital Montgomery in Blacksburg, Va., came just before coming to Columbus. The Virginia hospital is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).

Before that, over a 12-year span, he worked in various leadership positions with a number of HCA facilities, including Northern Virginia Community and Dominion Hospitals in Arlington, Va., and Falls Church, Va., and Henrico Doctors’ Hospitals in Richmond, Va. In the latter city, he also had a stint with HealthSouth Corp.

In the mid-1990s, he worked about three years as an exercise physiologist at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus before returning to Virginia.

Hill has a bachelor of science degree in health promotion and a master’s of education, both from Auburn University. He also earned a master’s degree in health administration from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

The CEO and his wife, Cindy, have three daughters ages 12, 9, and 6. He is a native of Waynesboro, Va., just northwest of Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia.

Columbus Regional Health also operates The Children’s Hospital at Midtown Medical Center, Neuroscience Institute, and MyCare Urgent Care Centers. It also is in a joint venture with HealthSouth in Phenix City at the Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.

Asked Thursday if his job as CEO at Columbus Regional Health is a career stepping stone or a destination that could keep in the community for years to come, Hill quickly said he expects to be here for a long while.

“This is an opportunity that in a career, quite frankly, only comes along once,” he said. “Columbus Regional Health is a tremendous health-care system. We’re looking to continue to grow and execute on our strategic vision, and to serve this community, not just the way we always have served this community, but even in a more enhanced fashion.”

He acknowledged the system’s “talented” physicians, employees and leadership will be critical to making that happen.

“Our employees just do an amazing job every single day caring for our patients and providing good customer service to our visitors, and we’re excited about that,” Hill said. “We’ve got a lot of positive things going on and we’re looking forward to the future with great anticipation.”