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Sparks Health System, Summit Medical again looking for a new CEO

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Sparks Health System is again looking for a CEO following the resignation this week of Charles Stewart, himself the second CEO to resign from the hospital since May 2013.

In a statement to The City Wire, Sparks Director of Marketing and Communications Donna Bragg did not disclose details of the resignation of now-former CEO Charles Stewart from the hospital in Fort Smith and its sister facility, Summit Medical Center in Van Buren.

"Charles Stewart resigned from his position as CEO of Sparks Health System this week. We appreciate his contributions to our health system and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Asked about circumstances regarding the resignation, Bragg declined to provide specifics.

Stewart started at Sparks in September, replacing former CEO Gary Blan, who lead the two hospitals for less than three months before he resigned.

Blan was hired by Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates (HMA) as the Arkansas Market CEO on March 19, 2013. According to HMA, Blan stepped down in late May, with the announcement made public on May 23, 2013. Blan was picked to succeed Melody Trimble who was promoted to president of HMA's Southern and Western Group, which includes 26 hospitals in seven states. Trimble’s promotion was effective Jan. 1, 2013. The seven-state region is Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.

Prior to joining Sparks and Summit, Stewart had joined HMA's Poplar Bluff, Mo., hospital, overseeing the completion of a new $173 million HMA facility. His sudden resignation in Fort Smith comes as a surprise, especially considering comments he made when he first started at the two hospitals last year.

“Prior to that (Blan’s departure), Melody was here for a number of years. ... I plan to be here for a number of years. Most of the places I’ve been, I was there for several years,” Stewart said.

It is unknown whether the change in ownership for the hospitals made official early this year had any bearing on Stewart's decision to leave. The new owner, Community Health Systems, was almost double the size of HMA at the time of purchase. Its portfolio of hospitals includes four Northwest Arkansas facilities — Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital and Willow Creek Women's Hospital in Johnson.

Bragg said the company has not named a new CEO, adding, "Our work to identify a new CEO will begin immediately, and it will include input from our Board of Trustees and medical staff leadership."

She detailed what she said were attributes those searching for a new CEO would seek in a candidate for the position, which is now open for the third time in a year.

"In our search for our next CEO, we will look for an experienced and motivated hospital leader who will help Sparks Regional Medical Center and Summit Medical Center continue in our commitment to serving the community with excellent health services."

During the time without a CEO, Bragg said the hospital would continue to provide a high level of care for patients in both hospitals.

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"We appreciate the dedication of our physicians and employees through this transition as they continue to provide high-quality, compassionate care for our patients."

Sparks Health System includes Sparks Regional Medical Center, Sparks Clinic (an employed multi-specialty physician group), Sparks PremierCare physician-hospital organization, Sparks Home Health and the fully hospital-integrated Marvin Altman Fitness Center. Summit Medical Center is a fully accredited, 103-bed acute care hospital. Its parent company leases the Van Buren facility in which Summit Medical operates.

Shares of Community Health Systems (NYSE: CYH) was trading mid-day Wednesday at $37.62, down $1.03. During the past 52 weeks, the share price has ranged from a $51.29 high to a $36.52 low.

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