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Article updated: 11/21/2012 5:15 PM

Northwest Community Healthcare CEO announces retirement

By Melissa Silverberg

Northwest Community Healthcare President and CEO Bruce Crowther announced this week he will retire at the end of 2013, ending more than two decades at the helm of the Arlington Heights-based company.

Dave Ungurean, vice president of the Northwest Community Hospital Foundation, called Crowther "the heart of the hospital" and said he has led the institution with compassion over the years.

"He is running basically a major company, but he is about as approachable and charismatic a person as you can ever come across, and at the end of the day he truly cares," Ungurean said.

According to a letter Crowther, 60, sent to employees this week, the hospital's board of directors will elevate Chief Financial Officer Steve Scogna to the position of chief operating officer, effective Dec. 1.

That move could eventually lead to Scogna's transition into the CEO's role. Crowther notes that he followed an identical path two decades ago when he served as COO for one year under former CEO Mac MacCoun before being promoted

"(Scogna) is a quality person, an experienced health care executive and someone who has my confidence as a leader," Crowther wrote in his letter to employees. "As we begin this important transition, I ask that you extend the same support to Steve that you have shown me over the years."

Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder noted the important role Northwest Community Hospital plays in town and said she enjoyed working with Crowther over the years.

"The hospital is very special to people here and a big, big part of the community," she said. "(Crowther) has a way to take an issue and find the positive in it," she added. "He's always thinking, he's a great listener and he's a man with a vision."

Max Brittain, chairman of the NCH board of directors, said Scogna has brought "great financial discipline" to the company and the hospital is well positioned for the future.

Crowther's announcement comes at end of a trying 12 months that saw the health care organization suffer a $13.2-million operational loss in 2011 and on two separate occasions announce plans to eliminate more than 100 jobs.

In a statement from the hospital noting Crowther's 20th anniversary earlier this year, he's credited as "the driving force" behind several campus improvements over the past two decades enabling doctors and staff to practice in a state-of-the-art environment.

Those improvements include the 83,000-square-foot Wellness Center; the 133,000-square-foot North Pavilion; the 155,000-square-foot Busse Center for Specialty Medicine that is home to medical specialties and private physician offices; and the 284,000-square-foot South Pavilion that features a new Emergency Department, Critical Care Unit and 200 private patient rooms.

"He has brought the hospital from where it was 20 years ago to a world-class institution, one of the highest-rated independent hospitals in the state," Brittain said. "Bruce is well respected in the hospital community and he's been an outstanding leader. We've been fortunate to have him as CEO for so long."

Crowther was on the Illinois Hospital Association board of trustees from 1994-1999 and served as chairman of the board in 1998, said association spokesman Danny Chun.

In a recent interview with the Daily Herald, Crowther discussed the organization's restructuring plans, which include opening four new outpatient facilities and eliminating about 110 hospital jobs, about 3 percent of its workforce.

"This is all a response to health reform and it's going on throughout the country and throughout the Chicago area," Crowther said. "We can anticipate lower (Medicare) payments, and we can anticipate a shift in incentives to less inpatient work and more outpatient work. Our inpatient volume here and elsewhere is falling and outpatient volume is rising."

Those who have worked with Crowther said he isn't leaving because of those challenges.

"I know Bruce would never walk away until he had everything in place for us to have a healthy future," Ungurean said. "The entire industry is being turned upside down right now, but we are doing the right things and we will come out of this stronger than we've ever been. It's Bruce's vision and his leadership that are the key behind that."

In addition to its 496-bed Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, the company operates four immediate-care locations in the Northwest suburbs as well as a FastCare Clinic in Palatine.

New outpatient facilities, expected to open next year, will be located in Arlington Heights, Palatine and Schaumburg, along with a new physical therapy facility in Mount Prospect.

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