Smith out as CEO of Tulare hospital district

Hospital board votes to release Phil Smith after one year, hires former Adventist Health executive Randy Dodd as interim CEO

TULARE – The Tulare Hospital District hired its fourth CEO in as many years last week.

The Tulare Local HealthCare District’s board of directors unanimously voted to release current CEO Phil Smith earlier this month, just one year after he was hired. Smith’s last day was officially Dec. 2 following a closed session “discussion and potential action regarding public employee evaluation/dismissal of Chief Executive Officer” at the Nov. 29 board meeting.

“The Tulare Local Healthcare District has released Chief Executive Officer, Philip Smith, after completion of his one year contract and thanks him for his many services to advance the District’s efforts and financial stability,” the district wrote in a statement released on Dec. 8.

After the decision to part ways with Smith, the board also approved a severance package of $61,000 at its Dec. 12 meeting which will be paid in bi-weekly installments for the next six months and health insurance premiums for Smith and his family through May 30, 2023. Smith was hired as CEO of the hospital district in December 2021 after being appointed to the TLHCD board in April 2021. Smith’s appointment was to fill the seat vacated by Steve Harrell, who was forced to step down from the board after being elected to the Tulare City Council.

Smith’s background in finance and the community made him a solid choice to help the district find a way to fund the completion of the hospital’s beleaguered medical tower. He had 35 years of experience with a primary focus on commercial and construction financing; during which time he developed significant expertise and experience in the review and management of requests for proposals, contracts, funds disbursements and project reports. He was also involved in the community including positions with the Tulare Chamber of Commerce and Tulare Rotary Club and service as a member of the Public Utilities Commission.

Yet a year into his tenure, not much progress has been made on financing the new tower, which must be completed by 2030. That is the state’s deadline for hospitals to comply with new seismic standards to prevent catastrophic failures during earthquakes. 

The resolution acknowledging Smith’s release was ratified by the board at its Dec. 12 meeting. The vote was 5-0 and included recently elected board member Jevon Price. The same resolution also announced former Adventist Health administrator Randy Dodd as interim CEO for the district. Dodd stepped down as president of Adventist Health Tulare in May 2020 after successfully helping the hospital to reopen, rehire more than 300 staff members and complete major renovations and equipment upgrades in October 2018, just 110 days after signing a contract with Adventist to manage the hospital. 

Dodd’s departure came during massive layoffs for Adventist. The nonprofit healthcare company laid off more than 1,000 people across its California network, including 44 jobs in Tulare and 152 in Hanford. The layoffs came on the heels of the pandemic, which forced hospitals to shut down elective surgeries while accelerating costs to keep employees stocked with personal protective equipment and staffing shortages during quarantines. Officially, Dodd left to pursue other opportunities, according to Adventist.

Dodd went on to serve as CEO of the Bakersfield Rehabilitation Hospital, which provided specialized inpatient rehabilitative services in Kern County. The hospital is part of a larger network of rehabilitation and long-term acute care hospitals through Ernest Health

Dodd, who has 18 years of executive experience, is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in business economics, and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, the nation’s top professional society for healthcare leaders. He is a lifelong resident of California. Dodd will lead the board during its search for a new CEO, another item approved by the board on Dec. 12, but board member Xavier Avila anticipates Dodd will also apply for the permanent position.

“The district has a lot of confidence in Randy Dodd based on his leadership to get the Tulare hospital open again,” Avila said.

The board also approved former TLHCD CEO Sandra Ormonde, as well as Dodd, as authorized signers on the district’s checking accounts. Ormonde retired as CEO on Dec. 1, 2021 after successfully navigating the hospital district through bankruptcy, the conclusion of more than 30 lawsuits, a deal to help save Evolutions Fitness Center and the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic in just two and a half years at the helm. Ormonde was replaced by Smith, making Dodd the district’s fourth CEO, interim or otherwise, in four years. Both Ormonde and Dodd were serving as consultants when the board released Smith.

“The District has the ability to look to its two existing consultants, Sandra Ormonde and Randy Dodd, to play a part in providing interim CEO services as the District conducts its recruitment for a permanent appointee,” the district said in a released statement. 

Once available, information on how to apply for the position will be posted on the District’s website, www.tularelocalhealthcaredistrict.org, and available in hardcopy at the District’s administrative offices, located at 842 N. Gem St. in Tulare.

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