Hospital CEOs stayed in place during a hectic year for health systems

Hospital CEO departures were down again in 2020 as more executives stayed with their organizations during a hectic pandemic year.

According to the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), CEO turnover among nearly 4,400 U.S. hospitals was 16% in 2020, the lowest seen since 2011.

“The year 2020 was an unprecedented year and strong leadership teams were essential to taking care of patients. Our recent data suggest that turnover remains relatively stable,” Deborah Bowen, ACHE’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Hospital CEO turnover had stabilized around 18% for much of the decade but trickled down to 17% in 2019 before matching its decade low last year, according to the group. Departures had peaked in 2013 at 20%.

ACHE’s reports are based on a combination of organizations’ reports to the American Hospital Association, public sources and ACHE’s own data, the group said. Its tally represents the country’s nonfederal, general medical and surgical hospitals.

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The executive group’s report also breaks down the states and other U.S. territories that saw the highest and lowest turnover during the year.

Washington, D.C., topped this list with a 40% turnover rate during 2020, followed by Maryland’s 33% and Wyoming’s 30%.

2019’s state rankings were led by Delaware’s 40% turnover rate, Alaska’s 33% and Arizona’s 32%.

On the other end of the spectrum, Rhode Island recorded no hospital CEO departures during 2020, ACHE said. Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa were also stable with 6%, 7% and 8% turnover rates, respectively.

South Dakota had led the way back in 2019 with a 2% turnover rate, followed by Puerto Rico’s 6%, Maryland’s 7% and New Hampshire’s 8%.

Bowen noted that although her organization does not collect data on the reasons these CEOs departed their hospitals, “we do know there are a variety of reasons driving turnover, including leaders moving to other roles or departing organizations.

“To ensure the strength and viability of the organizations in advancing health for patients and communities, boards and senior leaders need to remain vigilant in ensuring their succession plans and their development practices are relevant and up to date,” she said.

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