By Peter Osborne
In what appears to be a seamless transition, Rick Schaffner took the reins at Beebe Healthcare on March 25 as interim CEO, moving up from the EVP/chief operating officer role that he’s held for the past seven years.
Schaffner replaces former president and CEO Jeffrey Fried, whose abrupt departure after 24 years at the helm was announced in a press release that said the board “wishes to move ahead in new directions as Beebe enters into its next generation.”
“My focus right now is to make sure that we are meeting our obligations to the patients that we serve and that our care continues to be excellent,” Schaffner said, adding that his seven years of working with Fried demonstrated that “he’s a man of consummate integrity … one of the best administrators I’ve ever worked with. Beyond reproach.”
Schaffner said he wasn’t privy to the board conversations or the timing discussions that led to Fried’s departure but did say, “health care is a revolutionary process where different initiatives come forward that look to a different set of skills as organizations move on.”
“We were one of the first health-care organizations in the state to establish a distributed network [with] multiple health campuses,” he said. “We’ve got a growing medical group that supports the organization’s mission and vision. We’ve got a very successful home-health agency that’s accredited and allows us to start to branch out of the community.”
Much of Beebe’s growth strategy is focused on patients who are going to have “very, very short lengths of stay and some outpatient procedures that are surgical. Our new South Coastal Cancer Center [in Millville] is designed around a very ambulatory environment for the care of oncology patients, and our emergency department on the same campus is designed around that as well.”
Schaffner said the medical group has been focused on adding primary-care physicians and getting “a bit more ambulatory. Candidly, that’s a project that will take a period of time” that might have been beyond Fried’s timeline for staying.
Schaffner said he plans to apply for the permanent CEO position. CEO searches can take four to six months or longer, and he has a vision for what success looks like over that period.
“We want to make sure our employee engagement stays solid, that our patient satisfaction continues to be done very well, and that our clinical outcomes are good,” he said. “Being able to keep the train on the track and hit the stations on time is important to me, as is not having this be distracting for any of our partners or our team members that are working on it.”