Weems Memorial Hospital CEO Ray Brownsworth told county commissioners Tuesday morning he would be leaving his post July 18, as he and his family plan to move back to Iowa.
Brownsworth, who stabilized the hospital’s often tumultuous fortunes in the 20 months he has been at the helm, said he has accepted the chief executive officer position at a hospital of comparable size in southeastern Iowa.
He said his decision was motivated in part by his family’s desire to be closer to his 19- and 20-year-old daughters, as well as his wife Lori’s parents. The family circle in Apalachicola also includes daughter Sarah, and sons Luke and Adam Hames.
“I had to evaluate what I’m doing with the next 12 years of my life,” said Brownsworth, 56. “I decided that the investment in my children was the most important thing.
“We like it down here,” he said, “We like the area, we like the people, we like the hospital. It’s a tough decision thinking about moving back.”
An Oklahoma native, Brownsworth began as Weems CEO on Oct 8, 2012, after moving here from Sigourney, Iowa, where he had worked as a hospital administrator.
“I’m proud of where the hospital is today,” he said, in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “We’re more financially stable than we were 20 months ago when I first started, and cash flow’s better.”
Brownsworth said that he is hoping by the time he leaves in mid-July, Weems will have submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $10.25 million loan to go towards renovations and additions to the existing hospital, first built in 1959. Included with that application will be an opinion letter from BKD as to the feasibility of the project, he said.
“The community can no longer just accept the existing facility,” he said. “They’re going to have to have a new renovated facility for the future, and that’s because of changes with regulations as well as changes as to how health care is provided.”
With nearly three-quarters of the hospital’s revenues coming from the emergency room and outpatient services, Brownsworth said the revamped facility will be limited to fewer than a dozen beds, half the number there are today. Each will be private, with its own rest room and shower area.
“It’s a balance of new inpatient and outpatient areas,” he said. “The trend is away from inpatient care but you need inpatient options locally for those with inpatient needs. Many people don’t want to travel 25 miles.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Brownsworth was flanked by the hospital’s new chief financial officer John Graham, who began at his fulltime post April 21.
Graham has said he is not interested in the CEO post, Brownsworth said, but has recommended some possible names to put into the mix of candidates to be vetted as possible candidates by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, which is conducting the search.
“TMH is assisting in the search but the decision is made locally,” Brownsworth said. “I’ll assist in any way I can, helping to vet candidates, and the board will make the decision.”