Update: Robert Granger resigns as St. Francis President, CEO

As St. Francis Hospital works through a deep financial crisis, President and Chief Executive Officer Robert P. Granger’s resignation was announced Monday.

In the same news release, the hospital said it was no longer in exclusive partnership talks with Piedmont Healthcare of Atlanta,

Granger has been the hospital’s chief executive for 10 years, but the last four months St. Francis has been dealing with a nearly $30 million shortfall.

“The Board and I concluded that a transitional leadership structure can best serve St. Francis as we continue down our planned path of partnership,” Granger said in a prepared statement. “It has been my privilege to serve at St. Francis. I will always consider myself part of the St. Francis family and will do anything in my power to continue to help this wonderful institution.”

Until an interim CEO is selected, the Board of Trustees, led by Chairman Richard “Bo” Bradley, will lead the day-to-day operations, according to the release. Granger has agreed to be available to assist and support the board, as needed, during the transition.

An attempt to contact Granger was unsuccessful. Granger has spent three decades as a health care executive. He came to Columbus from Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola, Fla., where he was chief financial officer.

Bradley said in a prepared statement Monday that Granger has helped build consensus among the board, hospital administration and physicians.

“This unique culture has allowed the hospital to move forward and really focus on doing what is best for health care in our community,” Bradley stated. “The board thanks him for his contributions and wishes him the best of luck in his future career.”

St. Francis announced Jan. 15 it had entered into “exclusive discussions about a potential relationship” with Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare.

“Based on advice from our advisors and with Piedmont’s consent, we will evaluate proposals from other organizations while continuing to move forward in the process with Piedmont,” St. Francis spokesperson Amy Adams said in an email.

The severity of St. Francis’ issues came to light in November when officials outlined what they termed an accounting inaccuracy that was discovered in late October. The hospital eliminated 80 jobs -- 65 of them filled with employees -- Nov. 20.

Former Chief Financial Officer Matt Moore, who had been with the hospital for nine years and had previously worked with Granger at a South Florida hospital, was suspended Oct. 27 and “permanently relieved of his duties” Nov. 14, Granger said last fall.

Granger and the board of trustees had been operating for at least three years with reports that overestimated the hospital’s revenues and underestimated its expenses by $29.7 million, Granger previously said.

While Granger and the board thought the hospital was operating at a point that was break-even or better, it was actually losing money.

The corrected financial information released in November showed that St. Francis was operating at a $12.8 million deficit for 2014.

Rumors of St. Francis’ issues started last summer.

In July, Granger was questioned by the Ledger-Enquirer about the hospital’s financial status after an email circulated throughout the community claiming that some vendors were not getting paid in a timely manner.

Granger repeatedly denied it and responded with a July 24 memo to his board that stated: “Clearly someone in the area has an agenda to smear our good name, and it is quite disappointing that an individual has chosen to do this. We will continue to operate as normal and enjoy the high road. The view is much better from there.”

In November, the hospital had about 2,800 full- and part-time employees and was previously operating under an annual budget of $295.7 million.

The financial crisis came a year after St. Francis completed a $150 million project that included the largest expansion in the nearly 65-year history of the hospital. The project started in October 2011 and expanded its 600,000 square feet of space to nearly 1 million. It included two large structures a clinic services tower and medical office building and creation of a new Heart Hospital and a Women’s Hospital.