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Haywood Regional’s new CEO now on the job

The new CEO of Haywood Regional Medical Center assumed his role this week, pledging to lead the hospital into a new era under the ownership of Duke LifePoint.

The sale to Duke LifePoint last year ended Haywood Regional’s proud history as a community-owned, locally controlled hospital. But it was seen as a necessity to survive, with small independent hospitals fading fast everywhere without the economies of scale and expertise brought to bear by larger hospital systems.

Haywood Regional witnessed tumultuous times in the years leading up to the sale. New CEO Philip Wright will be the third one since 2008, not counting two interim CEOs during that period.

Although turnover is not uncommon in the volatile health care environment, the community has lacked a lasting figurehead to be the public face of the hospital and civic fixture. However, Wright said he plans to be that guy.

“I believe very strongly that health care is local. We have a responsibility to the community to provide good, quality health care, and the key to that is having a relationship with the community,” Wright said. “One of the roles we have is being a good corporate community citizen.”

Unlike the revolving CEO door at Haywood of late, Wright said he doesn’t plan on going anywhere until he retires.

Wright has been a hospital CEO in Tennessee, South Carolina and most recently Florida over the past 15 years, but sees Haywood as his final landing spot.

“I am hoping this one in North Carolina will be my last one,” Wright said.

Wanting to settle in Waynesville long-term was one reason he was attracted to the hospital in the first place. Aside from the obvious things to like about the mountains, Wright and his wife will be close to their two grown sons.

Wright said he is also excited to work for LifePoint hospital, which has more than 60 medical centers in more than 20 states.

“They are a good company and they have a lot of resources,” he said.

Monday was Wright’s first day on the job, and it was too soon to talk about his priorities and goals. But one of his first undertakings will be assessing department heads and top people to make sure the “right leadership team is in place.”

Wright’s to-do list his first week also includes buying a pair of winter gloves, but in the meantime, he’s grateful for the remote start feature on his car key fob so he can crank the engine up a few minutes before heading out the door — a function that got little use in back Florida.

When Wright came to the Haywood County commissioners meeting to introduce himself this week, he was reminded how important the hospital is to the people.

“The hospital is part of the fabric of our county,” Commissioner Mark Swanger told Wright. “It is very special to a lot of us.”

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