Three top executives out at Medical Center

lmorris@macon.comMarch 26, 2013 

Three top executives at The Medical Center of Central Georgia are out, and their departures come less than six months after a new CEO took the helm of Macon’s largest hospital.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Lavelle, Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Cunningham and Chief Nursing Officer Judy Paull are no longer employed at the Medical Center, Janie Poulnott, director of media relations, confirmed in an e-mail.

Lavelle submitted his resignation in January, and Paull and Cunningham left last week.

In September, the hospital announced the appointment of Dr. Ninfa Saunders as president and CEO of both the Medical Center and its umbrella organization, Central Georgia Health System. She replaced longtime CEO Don Faulk.

Starr Purdue, chairwoman of the Central Georgia Health System board, referred to Saunders all questions about the moves, but Saunders declined to comment.

An e-mail forwarded to The Telegraph by her secretary said, “It is the policy of CGHS & MCCG not to comment on personnel decisions in an effort to respect the privacy of all of our employees past and present.”

In September, Saunders told The Telegraph: “There’s already a lot going on in the Medical Center, and the key is to continue a lot of those initiatives and if necessary tweak it a little bit until you find the optimum solution.”

Cunningham, who had worked at the hospital for nearly a decade, said his last day on the job was Thursday.

“The only thing I can say, and I think this is very reasonable, is ... when a new CEO comes in, they may very well want to take the organization in a different direction,” Cunningham said. “And it was (Saunders’) decision to take the Medical Center in a different direction, and that involved the chief operating officer, the chief nursing officer and the chief medical officer. I don’t know what else to say.”

Cunningham joined the hospital in July 2004 and would have been chief medical officer five years in May, he said.

Lavelle resigned his chief operating officer post in late January. A search for his replacement will be considered at a later date, Poulnott said.

Meanwhile, Tracey Blalock will serve as interim chief nursing officer, and Dr. Fady Wanna was named interim chief medical officer, Poulnott said.

Dan Slagle, vice chairman of the Medical Center’s board, said he couldn’t shed much light on the shakeup.

“I can confirm have been some recent changes to the executive team at the Medical Center,” said Slagle. “The new CEO, Dr. Saunders, has the complete and absolute full support of the board of trustees of The Medical Center of Central Georgia as it relates to those changes.”

As of September, the Medical Center had more than 4,600 employees and 637 beds. Other system facilities include a rehabilitation hospital, a children’s hospital, a hospice and a senior living community.

Saunders has a doctorate in health care administration from the Medical University of South Carolina. She trained as a nurse in the Philippines and New Jersey, and she also earned a master’s of business administration from Emory University. She has worked in health care for about 40 years.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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