Last updated: April 17. 2014 5:51PM - 4199 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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It was anticipated that a new interim chief executive officer for Northern Hospital of Surry County would be here only a brief time — but his exit came much faster than expected.

After starting work in the post Monday, E. Timothy Cook had an abrupt departure after only three days on the job, which the chairman of the hospital’s governing board blamed on Cook not being “a good fit.”

There were reports that the brief relationship ended with Cook being escorted from the NHSC grounds by hospital security personnel, which was denied Thursday by Bill Woltz, chairman of the Northern Hospital of Surry County Board of Trustees.

“He wasn’t escorted from the building,” Woltz said, while acknowledging that the situation just didn’t work out with Cook, who came to Mount Airy to replace Bill James. James, who served as the hospital’s president and CEO for 19 years, left last Friday to become president of Wake Forest Baptist Health-Lexington Medical Center.

“He was just not a good fit,” the trustees’ chairman said of Cook, who had arrived here highly regarded with a track record of successfully guiding other hospitals around the country during leadership transition periods while permanent replacements were sought. Cook’s appointment came through Quorum Health Resources, a nationwide hospital-management organization in Tennessee with which the Mount Airy facility is affiliated.

Woltz declined to specify any problems with Cook during his short stay at Northern Hospital, other than saying Cook got off to a “slow start” that prompted a fast response.

“When you get off to a very slow start as an interim CEO,” there is a need to act, Woltz said of the trustees. “We just made the decision quickly.”

Woltz declined further comment about the circumstances regarding Cook’s departure.

“The way things stand right now, let’s just leave it with the fact that he wasn’t a good fit for us in Mount Airy.”

Attempts Thursday to reach Cook for comment through Quorum Health Resources were unsuccessful.

When his appointment as interim CEO was announced last week, Woltz had said the hospital’s governing board was pleased about Cook being assigned here.

Another source close to the hospital said Thursday that a woman who has been serving as the hospital’s chief financial officer for a short time was named interim CEO. But no official announcement has come on that, as was the case when Cook was appointed.

Based on previous reports, officials have cited a need for someone to oversee the day-to-day operations of the 133-bed hospital, given the length of time expected to be needed to recruit a permanent administrator.

Frank Swinehart, a Quorum Health Resources regional vice president, noted at the time of Cook’s appointment that finding James’ ultimate replacement would involve “a robust, far-reaching and comprehensive executive search” requiring at least a few months.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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