Hennepin Healthcare CEO Dr. Jon Pryor’s abrupt resignation this week comes amid growing financial problems at the hospital system.
The network, which operates HCMC in downtown Minneapolis, is expected to run a budget deficit of about $15 million for 2018 and projects that to grow to around $20 million in 2019, according to two of its board members.
“That’s disappointing of course to the hospital board,” board member and Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison said Wednesday. “It’s not a pace of catastrophe, I don’t believe. It’s just — we need to find ways to improve the financial situation of the hospital.”
The board has also discussed concerns over a strained relationship with the public, Callison said.
However, Pryor — not the board — decided it was time for him to go, said board Chairwoman Dr. Sheila Riggs. “I simply accepted his letter of resignation,” she said.
Pryor submitted a single-paragraph resignation Tuesday, stating he feels now is the time for new leadership. “I enjoyed my time at [Hennepin Healthcare Systems] and feel passionately about the mission of the institution and the community it serves,” he wrote.
The board held a special meeting Wednesday, which it closed to the public, to accept the resignation and appoint Dr. John Cumming, a trauma surgeon, as acting CEO effective immediately. Cumming will serve in that capacity for only three or four weeks, said Riggs. In that time, the board will search for an interim CEO and eventually choose a permanent replacement, she said.
Pryor, a urologist, started as hospital CEO in 2013, working previously as CEO of the physicians group at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Several board officials have praised his leadership over the past six years, which includes opening clinics in new markets and opening a six-story Clinic & Specialty Center that combined many of its downtown clinics into a new facility.
“I think it’s fair to say [Pryor has] been an exemplary leader for six years,” said Callison. “As is true for many organizations, it just feels like there is time for a change.”
Callison attributed the financial problems to serving vulnerable patients who rely on government programs to pay hospital bills, as well as public reimbursements often falling short of the costs for care.
The hospital receives $24.5 million in earmarked funds for uncompensated care from Hennepin County, plus more for building preservation, capital projects and service agreements, said county spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan.
Pryor has come under political pressure since last summer for Hennepin Healthcare’s use of the sedative ketamine on patients by paramedics in the field.
Pryor and the hospital have since begun the process of engaging community members to earn back trust. That included commissioning several external investigations into its ketamine research. Hennepin Healthcare released the results of those reviews last month, concluding the paramedics and researchers followed protocols in line with national standards.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat also criticized Pryor for proposing to arm hospital security.