Columbus County institutions looking for leaders - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Columbus County institutions looking for leaders

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Columbus Regional Healthcare System announced earlier this month that CEO Henry Hawthorne was leaving to “pursue other interests and opportunities.” Columbus Regional Healthcare System announced earlier this month that CEO Henry Hawthorne was leaving to “pursue other interests and opportunities.”
Southeastern Community College President Kathy Matlock will retire in November. Southeastern Community College President Kathy Matlock will retire in November.
COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) -

Plagued with low health rankings and high unemployment, many people in Columbus County rely on the hospital and the community college. Both institutions have faced budget cuts and staff layoffs in recent months - and both are searching for top leaders.

Columbus Regional

Columbus Regional Healthcare System announced earlier this month that CEO Henry Hawthorne was leaving to "pursue other interests and opportunities."

He led the hospital through two rounds of layoffs in the past year. In March, Hawthorne said the number of admitted patients and reimbursements had declined 15% during the previous four months. If the trend were to continue, Columbus Regional would lose more than $8 million this year, he explained.

Hawthorne blamed the budget pressures largely on government policies, including the Affordable Care Act and the state's decision not to expand Medicaid.

Community college

Southeastern Community College laid off nine employees in May when the board of trustees approved a reduction in force to brace for an anticipated $1.2 million reduction in state funds.

President Kathy Matlock said the budget cuts were due to decreased enrollment and changes to the state's funding formula for community colleges.

Matlock had previously announced plans to retire in November.

Leadership qualities

Officials at the college and the hospital say it's essential that their next leaders be attuned to the needs of the local community.

"We want this person to be seen, to be known, to be a part of the whole county," said Randy Britt, chair of the SCC board of trustees.

"Our patients are our family, friends, neighbors," CRHS Interim CEO Duane Erwin said. "It's key to the health of this community, and they want someone who understands that, appreciates it, and really nurtures this organization so it remains that integral part of our community."

Erwin said other desired attributes haven't been determined, such as years of experience and whether the CEO should have a background in community hospitals or in health systems.

Minimum qualifications for the Southeastern president position include a master's degree, significant administrative experience and involvement with economic development. A doctorate and teaching experience are preferred. 

Financial pressures

CRHS and SCC officials interviewed don't believe their institution's ongoing budget concerns will hurt their ability to recruit talented leaders.

"I'll tell you, this is an excellent organization," Erwin said. "The employees are phenomenal, the medical staff is great. You find the right candidate, they're going to come in here and say, ‘I want to be here.'"

SCC is a perfect place for an aggressive leader of any age who wants to leave a mark, said Harry Foley, a trustee who chairs the search committee.

He believes the guaranteed base state salary of $144,000 will also be an important recruitment tool.

"That's pretty good money for Columbus County," Foley said.

Search process

The Columbus Regional CEO will be employed by Carolinas HealthCare System, the Charlotte-based company that manages the hospital. But Erwin says the local board of trustees will guide the search and be assisted by a recruiter. He expects the process to take six to nine months.

The college formed a 13-member search committee comprised of trustees as well as a county commissioner and representatives from the county's two public school systems.

Foley explained transparency is a top priority.

"We only get one chance to do this right, and we've got to do it right," he said, adding the average tenure of a college president is nine years.

College leaders plan for the new president to begin in January.

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