Summa Health CEO resigns after physician vote of no confidence

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Thomas Malone, MD, president and CEO of Akron, Ohio-based Summa Health, has resigned from his position weeks after 240 Summa physicians called for his departure with a vote of no confidence.

The vote came after Malone had decided to terminate the contract of Summa Emergency Associates (SEA), the emergency physicians who had providing care in Summa Akron City Hospital, on Dec. 31. They were replaced with a new group, U.S. Acute Care Physicians, which according to the Akron Beacon Journal, is run by the husband of a Summa physician who had inside knowledge of the negotiations with SEA.

In a statement, Summa board chair Jim McIlvaine praised Malone for making “significant progress” at the system since he took over in 2015, not mentioning the public rift between the administration and physicians.

“We deeply appreciate that Tom made this difficult decision because he believes it is the right step forward for Summa Health, our employees, our physicians and the patients we serve,” McIlvaine said. “In our recent conversations with Tom it became apparent that his continued presence in his role at CEO was distracting the forward progress of the organization.”

In a shorter statement, Malone repeated the concerns about being a distraction, saying such a situation was “unacceptable” to him.

“I appreciate each member of the Summa Health family that has been with me on this journey over the last two years. Together, we have made great strides in moving the organization forward. I thank every one of them and will root for Summa Health’s continued success.”

The departure, however, doesn’t appear to mean a change for the emergency physician contract. McIlvaine said the staffing decision is “final and will remain unchanged.”

The Beacon Journal reported word of Malone’s exit was welcomed by many at Akron City hospital, with one unidentified nurse trying to give a reporter a high five.

Jeff Wright, MD, president of SEA, said the group would be willing to negotiate a new deal once the new CEO is in place.

“[We] would love to work with the Summa board to correct what has happened, to bring back the same level of care we offered the community for four decades,” Wright said.