WakeMed names Donald Gintzig CEO

dranii@newsobserver.comMay 27, 2014 

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WakeMed interim CEO Donald Gintzig, photographed in November 2013, has been named the hospital system's permanent leader.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Donald Gintzig’s stint as interim CEO and president of WakeMed Health & Hospitals has gone so well that he has been named the hospital system’s permanent leader.

The appointment of Gintzig, a retired Navy rear admiral and career health care executive, was announced Tuesday after a nationwide search.

The search was led by WakeMed’s nine-member board of directors, who have had an up-close-and-personal exposure to Gintzig’s management style since he was named interim CEO in October.

“It all comes down to fit,” said William McBride, a Raleigh lawyer and WakeMed’s chairman. “We think Donald is truly the best fit for WakeMed and what we are looking for.” He added: “We saw a lot of good people and Donald came out on top.”

Gintzig is the fourth CEO in WakeMed’s 53 year-old history.

“It is such an honor and a privilege,” said Gintzig. “I’m absolutely ecstatic.”

Gintzig, 56, retired from the Navy less than four weeks before he took the WakeMed job. He was acting deputy surgeon general, and has been CEO of a half-dozen hospital and health care systems.

He succeeds Bill Atkinson, who resigned in September, with WakeMed officials citing differences over the future direction of the organization as the reason for his departure.

WakeMed, an 884-bed system with more than 8,300 employees, reported its first annual operating loss ever last year.

In the wake of Atkinson’s departure, hospital officials said repeatedly that the hospital needed to improve its relationship with doctors, many of whom felt alienated by WakeMed’s administrators.

McBride said Gintzig has “significantly improved the situation.”

“He has had meetings with all the key physicians on a regular basis,” McBride said. “The physicians have been very involved in the new ideas we are in the process of developing.”

In addition, McBride said, WakeMed’s finances have been on the upswing under Gintzig’s leadership. But he deferred to the new CEO when asked for details.

“So far this year,” Gintzig said, “we are still operating at a loss. But we are ahead of budget and our budget for this year calls for us to break even.”

The budget anticipates swings throughout the year, with operations losing money some months and turning profitable in others – producing, overall, a break-even year.

Gintzig credited the improvement so far this year to increased revenue in areas such as cardiovascular and emergency services and “a much better job of managing our expenses, particularly our labor costs.”

Last year WakeMed laid off some workers, eliminated executive bonuses, and closed several nursing homes in an effort to improve its finances. Gintzig noted that even last year the hospital was profitable after investments were taken into account.

Gintzig was a commanding officer and a reservist in the Navy until he retired from active duty Oct. 1.

As a civilian, Gintzig’s CEO stints include St. Thomas Health Service in Tennessee, Pottsville Hospital & Warne Clinic in Pennsylvania, Schuylkill Health Care Services in Pennsylvania, Lutheran General Hospital in Texas, Brazosport Memorial Hospital in Texas and United Health Group in Minnesota.

When McBride was asked whether the board ever saw Gintzig’s stint as interim CEO as a tryout for the permanent job, he replied: “Maybe a little bit, maybe a very little bit.”

“It just happened we made a better choice than we knew,” McBride said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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