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Kevin Brown, who has been CEO of Swedish Medical Center for just over a year, is leaving to lead Piedmont Healthcare, a five-hospital, not-for-profit system based in Atlanta.

Swedish has named Marcel Loh, who currently oversees Swedish’s suburban hospitals and community hospital affiliations, as interim chief executive. His new position took effect Monday.

Brown, 46, has been with Swedish since 2000. He took over as CEO when Dr. Rod Hochman moved over to the larger Providence Health & Services system, which affiliated with Swedish in early 2012. Hochman took over as the Providence CEO on Monday.

Swedish said a national search for a permanent chief executive will begin immediately, led by the Swedish board and medical staff leaders working with Providence leadership, and internal and external candidates will be considered.

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As Swedish CEO, Brown helped turn around what was projected to be a $90 million loss heading into the 2012 fiscal year, with the system losing $250,000 a day.

In an interview last month, Brown said he and CFO Dan Harris focused on creating a work plan to improve efficiency, quality and safety. The system reduced the incidence of patient falls and pressure ulcers, he said, while cutting costs by better controlling supply costs, reducing staff and capitalizing on efficiencies made possible with the Providence affiliation.

Because of the affiliation, Brown said, Swedish was able to refinance its construction bonds using the Providence system’s higher rating, saving some $74 million in interest over the term of the bonds.

“It’s those kinds of costs we have to get out of the health-care system,” he said. “We can put that money toward patient care.”

At Piedmont, Dr. Patrick Battey, chairman of its board of directors, said Brown’s background and skills were the right fit for the organization, which has added hospitals and physician groups since being founded by two doctors in 1905.

“We have operated more as a holding company as we’ve put these pieces together,” said Battey, who called from Las Vegas, where he was attending a seminar on “Lean” hospital management, modeled after the Toyota manufacturing process. “The definition of success would be to become more of a system than a holding company — that’s our goal.”

Brown’s background includes work with insurers, physician groups and a “strategic vision” of how five hospitals can work as a system, said Battey, who has been acting as Piedmont’s interim CEO since its CEO died suddenly eight months ago.

“It was clear to us that Kevin’s philosophy is if you put the patient in the center of your decision-making, then the other things in terms of financial success will follow, but you’ve got to do everything to keep the patient first — and that’s our philosophy as well.”

Brown, in an email, said he wasn’t dissatisfied with Seattle, Swedish, Providence or his job. But, he added, “the Piedmont job is what I have been working to be considered for over the last 20 years. And, the timing window with my family is such that it just happened to work out. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been provided here and really looking forward to new challenges and an opportunity to lead in another market.”

Before he became CEO at Swedish, Brown was the point person on redevelopment of Swedish/Ballard, as well as creation of the new hospital in Issaquah.

He was also in charge of the ambulatory-care centers in Lake Sammamish, Redmond and Mill Creek, and more recently, has helped balance Swedish’s budget in the wake of economic difficulties.

Carol M. Ostrom: or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom

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