- In the first four months of this year, 26 hospital CEOs have stepped down, according to a new report from outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's roughly 35% lower than in the same time period last year, which saw 35 CEO departures.
- CEOs departed for a slew of reasons, most commonly retirement, resignation or for a new position in another company. Allegations of professional or sexual misconduct also spurred CEO departure, as did health or financial troubles.
- Increased retention in hospital C-suites bucked overall industry trends. So far, 103 chief execs have stepped down across the hospital, pharma and healthcare products industries, up 17% from the first four months of 2018. Challenger also found overall CEO turnover was up 14% year-to-date at all U.S.-based companies.
The strong industry headwinds in American healthcare don't make the job of any CEO easy, but hospital chief executives have a particularly challenging task. Hospital C-suites have to deal with crumbling admissions, strong outpatient competitors, increased political pressure to lower prices, dwindling reimbursement for care and a number of other factors pushing their facilities into the red.
However, it's a lucrative job for those who keep it. Hospital CEO salary has spiked up 93% since 2005 at nonprofits alone, mostly padded by large bonuses, though the wage gap between the highest and lowest earners continues to grow.
Gender disparities at the top of the ladder remain rampant in the hospital industry as well. An early 2019 analysis found women make up 13% of hospital CEOs and roughly 30% of senior leadership positions. That's although female consumers make 80% of buying and usage decisions in healthcare, and the fact that women make up 65% of the healthcare workforce.
Challenger found that five hospital CEOs left last month, relatively stable compared with April of 2018, which saw four departures. Last month saw two pharmaceutical CEOs step down and 14 CEOs from healthcare products companies.
Particularly high-profile departures in recent months include ex-Geisinger CEO David Feinberg, who set off a ripple of surprise across the industry when he left the Danville, Pennsylvania-based health system to head health strategy at Google in January, and long-time Ascension CEO Anthony Tersigni. Tersigni announced in March he'd be stepping down from the St. Louis-based chain, one of the nation's largest, at the end of the year.
But big names aren't indicative of larger trends.
"The churn we have been experiencing at the top since last August, with monthly totals well higher than average, seems to have cooled, at least for the moment," Challenger Vice President Andrew Challenger said in a prepared statement.
Healthcare job cuts have also slowed this year. In the first four months of 2019, the healthcare sector cut 14,374 jobs, compared to 17,450 in 2018 — a 17% drop.
"Job cuts announced by U.S. employers have also slowed in April, suggesting the record expansion we've seen this year may be in a holding pattern, as companies take a wait-and-see approach," Challenger said.