WARNER ROBINS — Houston Healthcare CEO Grady W. “Skip” Philips was terminated without cause at a meeting of the system’s board Monday night.
The Houston Healthcare System Inc. board of trustees took the unanimous action, effective immediately, following a closed executive session that lasted for about an hour and 45 minutes in the board room at Houston Medical Center.
Acting Chief Operating Officer Cary Martin, who came to Houston Healthcare in October 2008 as administrator of Ambulatory Services, was named acting chief executive officer in another unanimous vote. It was unknown whether he would be acting in both capacities.
Martin previously served as vice president at Taylor Healthcare Network in Hawkinsville. He also served as the administrator for Bleckley Memorial Hospital, according to the Houston Healthcare Web site. Martin has both a bachelor’s and master’s of business administration, from Valdosta State University and Georgia State University, respectively.
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The board did not give an explanation for Philips’ termination and did not take questions. No further information will be forthcoming, said Tonya Sadler, director of marketing for Houston Healthcare.
Philips, 47, was not present for any of the open portions of the meeting. He said he was called into the executive session twice for “very brief” periods. He said he was not given an explanation for his termination. “I was not given any specific reasons,” he said in a telephone interview. “There are a variety of things I would probably try to guess at, but that’s more for (the board) to say at this point.”
Philips said his badge and keys were collected when he left the executive session. He will return to the hospital later to collect his personal belongings.
Philips has been with Houston Healthcare since August 2006. He was hired as administrator of Houston Medical Center and named chief operations officer in July 2007. In March 2008, he was named interim CEO following the resignation of Dr. Tony Alford, who held the job for 20 months. Interim was dropped from Philips’ title in June 2008.
In February 2009, the Houston Hospitals Inc. board of trustees unanimously voted to extend Philips’ contract, which previously had been for one year, through Dec. 31, 2010.
About December 2009, Philips received a review of compensation per his employment contract. Philips said after the review, the board intended to extend his contract and increase his $330,000 annual salary. However, the board did not act on that at its regular April 28 meeting, as Philips said he was led to believe.
According to Philips’ contract, obtained by The Telegraph, Philips is entitled to severance because he was fired without cause. Philips is to receive his monthly salary for the month in which his duties were terminated and for a period of six months after, with an additional one month severance pay for each year he has been CEO. He also would continue to receive health and other benefits during the time he is being paid.
Philips said he has enjoyed his time with Houston Healthcare.
“Houston Healthcare is a great organization with more than 2,200 dedicated people that are continuing to work to try to make a difference in our community,” he said. “I feel very proud and privileged to work with the organization.”
Philips said he is proud of numerous accomplishments, including expanding services and hours for access, retaining and adding staff while giving raises and enhancing benefits, creating a partnership with physicians to open The Cancer Care Center at Houston Health Park, and expanding facilities.
Philips, who has 22 years experience in health care, said he will begin determining his next role, which probably will continue to be in health care and health-care leadership. He said he most likely will end up in a different community.
“I have enjoyed my association with the people of Houston Healthcare,” Philips said. “I’m confident the people at the organization will continue to find ways to make a difference.”
Also at the meeting, the system board unanimously voted to retain Mike Gray as the board’s attorney. Gray said he has represented the Houston Hospitals Inc. board since its inception and has provided occasional advice to the system board. The main difference now is that he will attend the system board meetings.
“A lot of what I was doing duplicated the system and hospital board,” Gray said.
Houston Hospitals Inc. is a non-profit organization that operates all components of the Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital. Houston Healthcare System Inc. is the parent corporation over all entities and is responsible for setting strategic direction for the system.