Nash UNC Health Care board fires CEO

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Nash UNC Health Care’s long-serving top executive has been removed weeks after a blistering patient safety report and the continued slow bleed of hospital profits.

Larry Chewning, the hospital’s president and CEO since 2007, was told to step down by the Nash UNC Health Care Board of Commissioners, the 14-member volunteer board charged by the county with oversight of the hospital. The board reached the decision during a meeting Thursday. Chewning is set to announce his retirement later this week.

Chewning was on UNC Health Care’s payroll. The Telegram has requested, but not received, the details of Chewning’s employment contract including his severance package from UNC Rex Healthcare. Chewning didn’t return messages Monday.

Hospital Board Chairman Jim Lilley said he is putting plans together to hire a replacement.

“We’re just starting to have that conversation,” Lilley said. “We will have a full blown search with UNC’s help. We’ve got good folks in place and are taking steps forward.”

Lilley didn’t comment on why Chewning was asked to leave.

Under Chewning’s leadership, the hospital joined the UNC Health System and added several special facilities including a new emergency department, women’s health, heart and cancer centers. The hospital also lost millions of dollars — $10 million in just nine months late last year and earlier this year — over the past decade. The hospital recently received poor ratings on its overall ability to keep patients safe from preventable harm and medical errors in a report from the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization.

Prior to taking over at Nash, Chewning was CEO of Sampson Regional Medical Center in Clinton. He has a doctorate from the University of Alabama, a master’s degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest. He is also a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Chewning’s job loss would affect his various board positions. He is chairman of the Southern Atlantic Healthcare Alliance and a member of the board of directors of Carolinas Gateway Partnership and the Strategic Twin Counties Education Partnership.

Chewning was only the third CEO of the hospital since it opened nearly 50 years ago. He replaced Rick Toomey who left for a hospital in South Carolina. Toomey replaced long-time CEO Bryant Aldridge.

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