Don Faulk, The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s chief executive officer for the past 15 years, announced Thursday he plans to retire this year.
“As I have talked with our boards in years past about transition times, I had generally told them somewhere between (age) 60 and 65 was my time frame,” said Faulk, 62. “In some professions, you can dial your amount of responsibility or involvement back, but in this job the switch is on or off. And if it’s on, it’s full speed.”
Faulk said he probably will leave the job in mid-2012, “maybe sometime between July 1 and Oct. 1.”
A search committee will be created by the hospital’s boards, and a search firm will likely be used to find a replacement, which would include internal and external candidates. The search process typically takes several months.
“This is both a personal and professional decision,” he said. “On the personal side ... it’s time for me to slow down and spend more time on that side of the ledger. I am going to spend a fair bit of uncommitted time with family.”
Professionally, the hospital is in a position to move in a more regional direction that will take five-to-10 years to roll out, he said.
“That probably needs to be done by the person who’s likely to be riding that horse for five or 10 years,” Faulk said.
Faulk notified the Medical Center’s 5,000 employees by e-mail Thursday of his pending retirement.
He does not expect to join another company, but Faulk is not ruling it out, he said. He doesn’t plan to leave Macon.
“Macon is home,” he said.
Faulk laughingly said he started at the hospital the day he was born, but “I left for a few years.” He was born at the hospital in 1949.
Faulk came back to the hospital in September 1971, worked for a year and then left for graduate school and his residency. He returned in 1974 as its personnel director.
Faulk was groomed by then-CEO Damon King, who took the public hospital private and made it a regional destination, to take the job upon King’s retirement. He was named acting head after King unexpectedly was hospitalized for open heart surgery in early 1995.
Faulk takes over leadership of hospital
Faulk became president and CEO of the Central Georgia Health Systems Inc. in March 1997. The corporation includes The Medical Center of Central Georgia as well as Central Georgia Health Ventures, Health Services of Central Georgia and Carlyle Place.
In recent years under Faulk’s guidance, Central Georgia Health Systems opened a new Cancer Life Resource Center, the Pine Pointe Hospice of Central Georgia and the Albert Luce Heart Institute. The hospital has expanded its pediatric surgery capabilities and maintained its dominance in heart treatment.
Nancy Anderson, chairwoman of The Medical Center’s Board of Directors, said Faulk will leave a huge void when he leaves, but the hospital staff he has assembled will help with the transition.
“Obviously, he’s been a key component to our success,” Anderson said. “We’ve been very, very fortunate. He’s a fantastic CEO with a large breadth of knowledge about health care, hospitals and community needs. He’s well-respected in the profession. He’s devoted almost his entire professional career with this hospital. The board feels the hospital is well-prepared to undergo this transition. We’re in very good shape thanks in large part to the leadership he has provided.”
Board member Dan Slagle echoed the same sentiments.
“I’m happy for Don and (his wife) Merry that they will be able to pursue the next chapter of their lives,” he said. “Health care has been a fluid industry the last few years. There’s been a lot of oversight, a lot of changes in regulations and finances. Don, with his many years of experience, has been instrumental in guiding the hospital through these tricky times.”
Anderson and Slagle both praised Faulk for his level of community involvement with the hospital and with other organizations.
About five years ago, when the hospital slipped into the red and then later climbed back out after widespread layoffs, King criticized Faulk’s leadership.
On Thursday, King didn’t seemed to have changed his position.
“I think it’s a real move forward for The Medical Center,” King said of Faulk’s announcement. “That’s my opinion. ... I worked 22 years (with Faulk) and found out I didn’t know him at all. I hope the board is very, very careful (getting a new CEO) and will do a nationwide search for his replacement.”
King said he wouldn’t discuss publicly his specific issues with Faulk’s leadership.
Anderson said the process to find Faulk’s replacement is not on a specific timetable.
“We’re going to move with all deliberate speed and make a considered decision,” she said. “Hopefully, we can finish by mid-year.”
Despite the difficulty in having to undergo a major transition, The Medical Center is prepared, Anderson said.
“I’m sure it’s a stressful time for everyone at the hospital,” she said. “Change is never easy, and this is a big change. But we have a strong board and an outstanding staff to make the transition, and we’re well-positioned to do it.”
Faulk led the hospital through a period of turbulence in the insurance business, as managed care companies squeezed profits. Public funding for medical care for the poor and for high-level trauma care steadily faded. In recent years, the hospital cut outpatient medical programs for the poor and closed its neighborhood health centers.
Faulk also was involved during the replacement of surgery buildings and the emergency room going through several renovations, he said.
“I am proud of the progress that was made during the time that I’ve been a piece of (the hospital),” Faulk said. “I have not certainly been all of it and I haven’t even been most of it, but hopefully I’ve done my share.”
The hospital has been in talks with Mid-Georgia Ambulance about a merger. Faulk said Thursday that as of about a week ago, those talks have ended for now.
“We did not reach an agreement so we are still friends so we will live to talk another day,” he said. “The current discussions about us merging at some level, those have been discontinued for now. ... We just said, the deal does not make sense now.”
Faulk said he and his wife have been married 39 years, and they plan to see their three children and seven grandchildren more once he retires.
Faulk said he will miss the people he worked with at The Medical Center.
“I have made some incredible friendships,” he said. “I will miss them a lot. I will still come back for the Christmas dinner, but it won’t be the same.”
Staff writers Oby Brown and S. Heather Duncan contributed to this report. Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.