WakeMed CEO leaves; differences with board cited

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The CEO of WakeMed Health & Hospitals is leaving his post after the board of directors cited “differences in the future direction of the organization.”

Bill Atkinson, who has been CEO since 2003, met with board leaders Wednesday night and agreed to leave before Oct. 1, the start of the hospital’s new fiscal year.

Board chairman William McBride said in a statement that there are going to be new challenges for WakeMed, and that the board looks forward to welcoming a new leader.

An interim CEO has not been named. Hospital leaders say they plan to conduct a national search for Atkinson’s replacement.

WakeMed is one of Raleigh’s largest employers with about 8,500 workers. Last month, WakeMed announced it planned to lay off more than 100 workers as it faced the prospect of its first financial loss in years

Atkinson’s departure follows several tumultuous years.

In December, WakeMed agreed to pay $8 million to settle an investigation into its practice of billing Medicare for expensive overnight care when the patients had been treated and discharged the same day.

As part of the agreement, the 59-year-old Atkinson acknowledged the wrongdoing described by prosecutors. He further acknowledged that WakeMed was responsible for the acts of the health care organization’s employees and officers.

There was also the unsuccessful attempt to take over Rex, a subsidiary of UNC Health Care, in 2011. The bid was launched a few months after it lost the allegiance of a lucrative cardiology practice to Rex, and was followed by Atkinson’s criticism of Rex for what he said was its failure to carry the fair share of charity cases in Wake County.

WakeMed and UNC ended their public battle in May 2012. The settlement included a requirement that UNC build and operate a $30 million, 28-bed psychiatric facility in Wake County, easing some of the charity care burdens WakeMed has carried for decades.

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