The president of a college-affiliated teaching hospital in Jacksonville credited with remedying that institution's financial woes has been named the new chief executive officer of Tampa General Hospital.
Jim Burkhart, president and CEO of Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, will take over for retiring Tampa General CEO Ronald Hytoff on March 4.
Burkhart, 58, starts his tenure with the non-profit, independent TGH pulling in $1 billion in net revenue last year and ranked No. 1 in the state and one of the best in the nation.
He also comes in at a time when the relationship between the hospital and the University of South Florida Morsani College of Health has been described as strained by local elected officials.
The friction stems from the USF medical school seeking to extend the university's reach to other local hospitals, even once seeking its own medical center.
Recently, the hospital's agreement to host more than 300 USF medical residents almost expired until TGH agreed to a one-year extension. Such agreements typically last a decade.
Burkhart said he wants to smooth over the tensions as soon as he arrives in Tampa.
"The first thing I've got to do is sit down and listen and find out what the issues are," Burkhart said. "The board is committed to working out the relationship with USF."
Stephen Klasko, USF Health's chief executive officer, said the university and TGH have always had a strong affiliation and that the one-year contract came about only because the hospital's leadership was in transition.
Now that Burkhart is on board, Klasko said, he's looking forward to working out a long-term relationship between the two institutions. He likened the process to "renewing our vows."
"Our destinies are aligned," Klasko said. "We have to map out what the next 10 years looks like. Health care is not going to get any easier and you can't go at it alone."
Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the continued affiliation between the hospital and the university is vital for Tampa's economic health.
"The relationship with USF and its medical school is key," Buckhorn said. "It's got to be reinvigorated. They are inextricably linked. That relationship has to be locked up for a long period of time."
In an email sent to TGH employees on Wednesday, Hytoff said the hospital is in good hands with Burkhart.
"I have known Jim for almost 10 years and am very confident he will lead TGH in an exemplary fashion," Hytoff wrote.
Klasko said he was on the selection committee and was impressed by Burkhart's credentials.
"He really understands the importance of a closer TGH-USF relationship," Klasko said. "He understands the value of academics."
Burkhart was selected from a field of 200 applicants. He has been with Shands Jacksonville for 12 years, serving there as a consultant in 2001, then as president and CEO since 2003.
He pulled Shands out of debt during his first five years and increased its net revenue from $2.4 million in 2002 to $17.9 million in 2007, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal.
Burkhart said he expects a smooth transition in Tampa because Shands is structured similar to TGH. The not-for-profit Shands is also a teaching hospital, affiliated with the University of Florida.
Shands Jacksonville has 3,800 employees; TGH has 6,400. Both hospitals train about 300 medical residents from their affiliated university.
Burkhart said his experience developing good relationships with UF doctors will translate well at TGH and its USF-affiliated physicians.
"I work hard at developing a strong team. The good news is, I have one coming in," Burkhart said.
Hospital spokesman John Dunn declined to divulge Burkhart's salary. According to one of the hospital's IRS filings, Burkhart's predecessor, Hytoff, received more than $1.7 million in salary and benefits in 2007.
During Hytoff's 12-year tenure, TGH expanded dramatically, doubled its patient volume, tripled its net revenues from $350 million to $1.2 billion and has been named to U.S. News & World Report's top 50 hospitals each year since 2005.
When he announced his retirement in May, Hytoff, 67, said the hospital had a "negative bottom line" and "had about 30 days' cash on hand when I was asked to be CEO in February 2000."
Burkhart has a doctorate of science degree in administration and health services and a master's degree in hospital and healthcare administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor's degree in psychology and biology.
Before he landed at Shands Jacksonville, he served as president of Endeavor Health Group, a healthcare management consulting firm in Ft. Lauderdale.
He also worked for 12 years as president of Fort Sanders Park West and Regional Medical Centers in Knoxville, Tenn., overseeing a total of 900 beds and 3,000 employees.
Burkhart said he was not actively looking for another job when TGH's search committee called him last year. He applied, he said, because "it's always important to look at opportunities for growth."
Burkhart said although he still holds a "special place in his heart for the Jacksonville Jaguars," he is ready to cheer on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His wife, he said, is a big baseball fan and is looking forward to watching the Tampa Bay Rays play.
"I'm extremely excited to be coming to Tampa," Burkhart said. "TGH is a wonderful organization. It has a very strong board and a very strong leadership team."
When he arrives in March, Burkhart said, he will focus on community involvement, continuing TGH's standard of patient care and maintaining the hospital's stellar reputation.
"We want to keep Tampa on the forefront of quality health care," he said.