New Sparks CEO comes from Northwest Health System in Springdale

Dan McKay, who has worked for five years as the CEO of Northwest Health System, has been named CEO of Sparks Health System in Fort Smith. McKay is the fourth named CEO of Sparks since January 2013.

McKay will also be responsible for operations at Summit Medical Center in Van Buren.

McKay joined Northwest in 2010 and immediately began work to develop collaborative relationships with physicians on the medical staff, according to a statement from Northwest. Sparks and Northwest are both owned by Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems.

“It is bittersweet to leave Northwest Health System after how much has been accomplished together with our physicians and employees,” McKay said. “This role has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I am confident that the momentum created over the past five years will continue and even grow.”

He worked to help recruit 100 doctors to the system’s medical staff and oversaw the opening of 20 new clinics. The system also expanded and opened several new services, including a stroke program with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, a hospitalist program, telemedicine at Bentonville and Springdale, and a new emergency department in Springdale. Springdale was also the first hospital in Northwest Arkansas to receive chest pain accreditation, which was soon followed by Bentonville.

“Of all the ways Dan made Northwest a better place, the most important were the stability he brought and the foundation he has laid for future success,” Linda Maeinschein, chair of the Northwest Health System Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “The achievements we’ve made during his tenure have positioned us for a successful future and we are grateful for the position we are in because of his leadership.”

McKay said in a statement that he is eager to be part of the history of Sparks Health System.

“I am excited to support the physicians, employees and volunteers in their work to provide high quality healthcare to the patients who trust their care to Sparks Health System,” McKay said. “It’s an honor to join a system with a long history of being a leader in providing high quality healthcare to the Fort Smith area.”

Prior to serving as CEO at Northwest, McKay was a Vice President at Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation, where he supported the management of operations at hospitals across the U.S. He previously served in leadership positions at hospitals in South Carolina, Missouri, Texas and Alabama. He holds a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from Xavier University and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Kentucky.

“Dan has a track record of proven success and stability at Northwest,” said Hugh Maurras, Chairman of Sparks Health System’s Board of Trustees. “He brings proven leadership skills and a familiarity with our region to the role of CEO. On behalf of the board, I look forward to working with him to continue our work to enhance the care we provide our communities.”

McKay arrives in Fort Smith just weeks after the previous Sparks CEO, Tim Schmidt, was dismissed following a racially insensitive remark he made during an employee meeting. Schmidt, who has more than 20 years experience in hospital administration and previously served as CEO at hospitals in Illinois, New Mexico and Texas, was in March named the interim Sparks CEO.

Sparks has had a tough time finding a CEO. Schmidt was the third interim or named CEO to resign or be dismissed since the January 2013 departure of CEO Melody Trimble.

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Gary Blan was picked to succeed Trimble when she was promoted to president of Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates' Southern and Western Group. Trimble’s promotion was effective Jan. 1, 2013. HMA was then the parent company of Sparks. Blan resigned in May 2013, less than three months after being hired.

Charles Stewart was then named CEO in September 2013, but his resignation would come less than six months later.

Sparks and Summit were part of the early 2014 sale of HMA to Community Health Systems, a company whose portfolio of hospitals was nearly double the size of HMA's portfolio. Locally, CHS owns four Northwest Arkansas facilities — Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital and Willow Creek Women's Hospital in Johnson.

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It is customary...

to inform the employees of a future change but this was not done as of 5:00 PM yesterday. Sparks owners have driven great doctors and nurses from this area and decimated our health system. This company was so bad that it made 60 Minutes. Thank God for Obama Care who has become a watch dog for these bandits. They hate him because it hurts their profits.