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Oregon health system begins CEO search as merger talks continue

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OHSU Health CEO John Hunter is departing, even as the system looks to complete the acquisition of Legacy Health.

OHSU Health is looking to complete its acquisition of Legacy Health this year, and the organization is also looking for a new leader.

Image credit: OHSU Health

OHSU Health is looking to complete its merger with Legacy Health this year. OHSU Health says CEO John Hunter is leaving and the system is searching for a replacement. (Image: OHSU Health)

John Hunter, who has led OHSU Health since 2017, is departing the system.

Danny Jacobs, president of Oregon Health & Science University, said in a statement that he and Hunter have come to an agreement that it’s time to look for the next leader of the health system.

Hunter will continue to serve as CEO of OHSU Health until June 30, 2024, or until a new chief executive is hired.

Oregon Health & Science University and Legacy Health said in August that they had signed a letter of intent to merge. In the letter, Jacobs said the systems continue to go through the “due diligence phase” of coming together.

If regulators sign off on the acquisition, the two organizations will form a 10-hospital system. Legacy, which has struggled financially, would become a part of OHSU. The organizations have said that they hope to complete the transaction in 2024.

OHSU has tapped Nexus Search Partners, an executive search firm, to identify candidates to serve as the next CEO.

Brooke Baldwin, OHSU’s chief nursing executive, and Donn Spight, OHSU’s vice president of health equity, will co-chair the search committee for a new leader, the university said.

“Dr. Hunter led the OHSU health care mission through the pandemic with compassion and a people-first focus. We are grateful for his leadership and service as we transition to the next phase of developing a seamless, comprehensive health system for the people of Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and beyond,” Jacobs said in the statement.

Hunter joined OHSU in 2001. He has served as an executive vice president of the university and CEO of OHSU Health since 2017. Previously, Hunter served as chief clinical officer for OHSU and as interim dean for the medical school. He also is a former chair of OHSU’s Department of Surgery.

Hunter will continue to serve as a tenured faculty member with patient care responsibilities in the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.

The merger of OHSU and Legacy Health would create a system with a combined revenue of more than $6 billion, according to reporting by The Oregonian.

Last summer, Legacy acknowledged that it was struggling with its financial losses. Legacy lost $172 million in its 2023 fiscal year, The Oregonian reported.

Since the pandemic, Legacy has said the system has faced higher costs that are outpacing revenues. Like many hospitals and health systems, Legacy has seen patients staying for longer periods even when they’re ready to be discharged, due a lack of beds at long-term care or post-acute facilities.

OHSU has said it will make a capital commitment of $1 billion over 10 years to support primary and community-based health services for the merged organization. OHSU says it will lead to more sites of care and expanded clinical programs, including preventive medicine.

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