West Penn health system CEO leaves

| Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011

After just 19 months on the job as CEO of West Penn and Allegheny General hospitals, Gregory Burfitt is leaving.

Burfitt, hired in February 2010, is the latest in a string of top officials to depart the financially struggling West Penn Allegheny Health System.

The health system told its employees on Wednesday afternoon that Burfitt was stepping down as CEO of the two hospitals immediately and would leave the organization in October.

The internal message, signed by health system President and CEO Dianne Dismukes, said Burfitt was leaving to "pursue other opportunities."

Burfitt, reached at home, declined to comment.

Duke Rupert was named president and CEO of West Penn Hospital, effective immediately, Dismukes said. Rupert was the chief operating officer of Allegheny General and West Penn hospitals.

West Penn Allegheny Health System will start a national search for a new CEO of Allegheny General Hospital, Dismukes said. In the meantime, Judy Zedreck, the hospital's chief nursing officer, will handle day-to-day operations.

Burfitt came to West Penn Allegheny from BDC Advisors LLC, a health care consulting firm in Miami. He had also been the CEO of a large integrated hospital system in Colorado and the chief operating officer of a health system in Virginia.

His departure follows several resignations of top executives in the West Penn Allegheny system in the last year.

The health system's former president and CEO, Dr. Christopher Olivia, stepped down in June when it was announced that health insurer Highmark Inc. intends to acquire the health system for $475 million.

Judy Hlafcsak, the health system's chief legal counsel, left in September 2010. Dawn Gideon, executive vice president and chief of hospital operations for the health system, stepped down in October 2010. And Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sanford Kurtz resigned in June.

West Penn Allegheny posted an operating loss of more than $48 million for the nine months ended March 31, according to its most recent financial filing. Officials have said the system would have been forced to close West Penn Hospital without an immediate cash infusion of $50 million provided by Highmark as part of the acquisition deal.

A definitive agreement in Highmark's purchase of West Penn Allegheny is expected before the end of this month. The deal could take a year or more to close.

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