Swedish Health Services CEO Tony Armada has resigned, days after a Seattle Times investigation examined turmoil and troubles inside Swedish’s premier neurosurgery institute.
Swedish Health Services CEO Tony Armada has resigned from his position, hospital officials said Tuesday, less than two weeks after a Seattle Times investigation exposed the turmoil and troubles inside Swedish’s acclaimed neurosurgery institute.
Swedish posted a statement on its website saying that Armada told the Swedish board that he believed stepping down was in the best interest of the organization. The Swedish board of trustees named R. Guy Hudson as interim CEO, a job that oversees Swedish’s five hospital campuses and dozens of other facilities in the region. Hudson is a doctor who was most recently the organization’s chief of physician services for Western Washington.
“We believe this is an important time to return to physician leadership,” Swedish Board Chairwoman Teresa Bigelow said in a statement.
Armada’s departure was first reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
A SEATTLE TIMES SPECIAL REPORT
THE O.R. FACTORY | High volume, big dollars, rising tension at Swedish's Cherry Hill hospital
- State regulators investigating Swedish
- Swedish CEO Tony Armada resigns
- Top Swedish neurosurgeon resigns
- Interim CEO: 'It's a new day at Swedish'
- U.S. Attorney’s Office launches investigation
- Providence CEO Rod Hochman apologizes
The Times stories detailed a dramatic rise in recent years in the number of surgeries taking place at the Cherry Hill neuroscience unit along with the internal concerns expressed about patient care. With physician contracts incentivizing a high-volume approach, surgeons at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute jumped past other brain and spine surgeons in the state when it came to total billings for their patients.
Swedish attracted patients from all over the region and beyond as it expanded its aspirations for the campus. But current and former staffers said in interviews that top doctors sometimes did little once the patient was in the operating room, instead leaving much of the work to fellows. With fellows and other assistants handling portions of each surgery, primary surgeons have juggled multiple operations at the same time, boosting their overall volume and billings.
One of the leaders of that effort was Dr. Johnny Delashaw, who was hired in 2013 by Swedish’s parent organization, Providence, to work at Swedish’s neuroscience campus. Delashaw, known for his high-producing surgical practice, was recruited to Seattle even as he dealt with an internal investigation and allegations that he had high rates of complications at his job in California.
Delashaw then faced a spate of internal complaints about his work at Swedish, according to documents obtained by The Times.
Swedish is part of a growing health network under the umbrella of Providence St. Joseph Health. Providence CEO Rod Hochman, who was previously CEO at Swedish until the organizations merged in 2012, has yet to comment on The Times’ investigation.
The Times reported that Dr. Ralph Pascualy, the past chief executive of Swedish’s physician division, confronted Hochman in a memo a few months ago about issues related to Delashaw and suggested it was Hochman’s responsibility to take action. Pascualy referred to Armada as “a good soldier” in the memo, which was obtained by The Times.
“More than a half a dozen times in my presence over the last three years he has said that you do not force him to do anything when speaking about this problem and related matters,” Pascualy wrote. “However, nobody believes that Tony would allow this kind of situation if you were not in fact supporting Delashaw’s leadership.”
Armada joined Swedish in November 2013, just as the organization was beginning the shift in its neurosurgery unit toward a high-volume practice.
The Times reported that doctors have expressed concerns to Armada and other administrators about patient-safety issues at the neurosurgery institute, particularly when it came to Delashaw. Ten surgeons and staff members met with Armada in October, with some making desperate pleas to remove Delashaw, to detail their concerns about the shifting culture at Swedish, according to minutes from that meeting obtained by The Times.
Armada, who didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday, wrote in a letter to patients and the community last week, after The Times story, that “patient safety and quality are our first priority.”
“Over the past few days, we have been humbled and saddened as we have seen that commitment to our patients and our community questioned,” Armada wrote. “We understand why many are concerned by what they have read.”
On Thursday, the state Department of Health said it was launching a new investigation of the Cherry Hill facility after reviewing the findings of The Times story.