Citizens Medical Center's leader to retire
Nov. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.
Updated Nov. 20, 2013 at 5:20 a.m.
Citizens Medical Center will soon have a new leader at its helm.
Longtime Administrator David Brown announced his retirement Tuesday during a hospital board meeting.
The board then approved Chief Financial Officer Stephen Thames as incoming administrator.
Brown, 67, who has been the administrator for 31 years, will remain on the job until Dec. 1, board Chairman Donald Day said, but his contract runs through the year's end. He said Brown will remain to help with the transition.
The outgoing administrator said his decision to step down was a long time in the works.
The board asked him to search for a successor to make it easier for the board to consider various candidates, Brown explained. After Citizens recruited Thames, who joined in June, Brown said it became clear that he was a strong candidate for the job.
Thames, 46, said he has worked in health care for about 18 years with most of that time spent in transitional work for struggling for-profit hospitals.
That element, Brown said, means he might know some tools of the trade that could help the hospital down the road.
While Thames agreed, he said the community hospital maintained an advantage.
"We don't have to be as aggressive," he said, comparing its financial tactics to those that investor-owned hospitals employ.
Another added bonus comes from that five-month overlap, Brown said, which allowed the staff time to adjust to Thames' management style before he took the reins as administrator.
Thames was born in San Antonio and attended Louisiana Tech University. The father of three spent 20 years in the United States Army National Guard as a construction engineer.
Although his family will remain in Fort Gibson, Okla., while his oldest son completes his senior year of high school, Thames' pilot license means he travels back whenever his schedule and weather permit.
Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi has been affiliated with Citizens for 25 years through his 12 years on the board and now as judge. In that time, he said, Brown has brought the hospital a long way.
Improvements include everything from the women's center to the parking garage on to the chest pain center and others.
"I firmly believe that every decision Mr. Brown ever made, he truly felt was in the best interest of the hospital and in the best interest of the patient and certainly the best for Victoria County," Pozzi said. "He will be sorely missed."
Still, the judge said he felt comfortable moving forward with Thames. The board made a smart decision, he said, and Victoria is fortunate to have the incoming administrator.
"He certainly has a good feel for what is needed and for what goes on here at Citizens Medical Center," Pozzi said.
Day, too, had good things to say about both men.
He praised Brown for his years with the hospital, describing Citizens as "a county hospital that doesn't owe anybody any money."
The board expressed no reservations when it came to bringing Thames into his new role, he said.
"I think he'll be a tremendous asset to the community as a whole, not just the hospital," he said of the man who is already involved with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and other local groups. "His background shows he's a community-minded individual."
Brown assumed his position as administrator in 1982, at what was then known as Citizens Memorial Hospital. Through the years, he said, the most rewarding aspect was seeing the good work the hospital did for the public.
"I think the thing we do best is the personalized care that we give our patients," he said. "This is a pretty special hospital when you look around."
He said he knows the hospital will be in good hands with Thames, and that he plans to make himself available throughout the transition period.
"I'm looking forward to responding to any request that comes from the board or Stephen," he said. "I want to be sure we don't leave the hospital without any key information I might have."
As for Thames, he said he has no immediate changes planned for the hospital's future.
His plan now is to continue down the path he and Brown have discussed. That includes a focus on the Affordable Care Act, he said, as well as other ongoing efforts to improve patient care.
"Our goal is to provide the best health care in the region," he said. "We're just going to continue that."