New OCH Regional Medical Center CEO James "Jim" Jackson speaks during an introductory press conference Monday afternoon at the hospital.
June 26, 2018 10:40:02 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
OCH Regional Medical Center announced the hiring of James "Jim" Jackson as its new CEO on Monday.
Jackson comes to OCH from the Greenwood Leflore Hospital, a 248-bed, 900 employee city/county-owned hospital in the Delta. He's succeeds hospital CEO Richard Hilton, who announced his retirement in late April.
OCH Board of Trustees President Linda Breazeale said the trustees selected Jackson from a field of six candidates.
Jackson has worked as the CEO at Greenwood Leflore Hospital since 2009. Before that, he worked as the chief financial officer from 1999-2009. He's an alumnus of Mississippi State University, having earned a bachelor's in professional accounting in 1986. Jackson was also the 2016-17 chairman of the Mississippi Hospital Association's board of governors and recently served as the association's finance committee chair.
"When we first started looking at the resumes we had, his stood out immediately as someone with the right experience," Breazeale said. "He also had a commitment to a community like Starkville, not just because he is a Bulldog, but he comes from a community that's very similar to us. I think he will be a good fit, not just within these walls but also within the county lines."
Jackson thanked the board for its considerations and said he plans to meet with employees and other stakeholders to talk about OCH's future.
"We're going to be getting together as a team and talking about that and working together," Jackson said. "We're only as strong together as the team is strong and I'm looking forward to working with all of the people associated with the institution and improving the care.
"Now the main thing is this," he continued. "Whatever we do, we have to maintain and assure that the quality of care remains at the highest it can be. That will always continue to be our number one priority."
Jackson will begin working as the CEO effective immediately. OCH did not disclose his salary, saying that it is protected as a contracted employee.
OCH is experiencing rapid changes as Jackson takes the helm. The hospital has been in the midst of talks of affiliations with a larger system for several months. Breazeale said trustees have selected an affiliation partner, which will be unveiled at Tuesday's board meeting at 4 p.m.
She said she has faith Jackson will be able to take the reigns and move the hospital forward in working with its new affiliation partner.
"He was not included in any of our affiliation discussions, so he only knows what cards he now holds in his hand," Breazeale said. "He knows what the plan is and he will be completely involved in the contract discussions and how we move forward with affiliation.
"He'll be able to come in and start that discussion," she continued. "Just because we come in and announce 'This is our affiliate,' that doesn't mean anything happens any time soon. It means we have to figure out what is going to happen."
Three health care systems have proposed affiliation to OCH -- Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Services, North Mississippi Health Services of Tupelo and the Jackson-based University of Mississippi Medical Center.
An affiliation would create a partnership of shared resources between OCH and a larger system without giving that system ownership rights.
Jackson told The Dispatch he thinks affiliation can "absolutely" be beneficial for OCH as the hospital looks for mutually-beneficial relationships with affiliation partners.
"I read constantly about things going on in the industry and one of the hot topics right now for smaller, independent rural community hospitals is affiliation with larger institutions," he said. "We definitely are going to look into all the ways it can benefit Oktibbeha."
Jackson, who is coming from a publicly-owned hospital, said he understands the value of keeping county and/or city-owned hospitals independent. OCH has faced multiple attempts from county supervisors in recent years to possibly sell or lease the hospital -- most recently last year's election when voters chose to keep the hospital locally owned.
"Having an independent hospital in your community is just a way to take advantage of the fact that you have an asset in your community whose sole purpose is to serve your community," Jackson said. "There are pros and cons to the consolidation of health systems. For a small community, yeah it would still have health care, but it probably would not be as community-minded."
Breazeale said Jackson's experience at a publicly-owned hospital was an important part of his selection.
"That was very important, that he would understand that because we have had so many dynamics at play the last few years," she said. "We wanted someone who would be able to work with our supervisors, work with our trustees, work with our hospital and bring us all together to get us moving in the right direction."
Hilton told The Dispatch he's working out when his last day, which was set for July 1, will be. He said he plans to remain available to help Jackson transition into the new role, and for advice whenever needed.
He said he feels Jackson is well-prepared to continue leading OCH through a turbulent health care landscape.
"He's a professional," Hilton said. "He's very good at communicating. He's very open with dealing with problems. I thought it was very good that he said he's going to be talking with everybody and getting feedback.
"I think it's in good hands," he later added. "We're in good hands."
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