Lutheran Health CEO out in wake of buyout attempt

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Brian Bauer has been removed as CEO of Lutheran Health Network.

According to a letter sent to Lutheran employees on Monday by Lutheran President of Operations Marty Bonick, Bauer was fired after “considerable thought” and “many discussions.” In the end, Bonick said of Bauer in the letter that “current circumstances put him in an untenable position and he is unable to continue in his leadership role.”

Aaron Garofola was also fired as CEO of Dupont Hospital, Bonick said in the same letter.

Lutheran Health Network CEO Brian Bauer talks to NewsChannel 15. FILE

Current Vice President of Operations for Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation Mike Poore has been named Lutheran’s interim CEO and will be responsible for day-to-day operations. Mike Young, a healthcare consultant who Bonick said has experience leading large health systems, has been appointed interim Chief Operating Officer.

“I know you join me in thanking Brian and Aaron for their leadership and accomplishments,” Bonick wrote in the letter.

The firings come three weeks after the parent company of Lutheran Health Network – Community Health Systems – rejected a $2.4 billion offer submitted by a group of 10 local doctors to buy the hospital system. In the days that followed, the physicians group said CHS told them they were unwilling to discuss critical issues at Lutheran Health Network. The doctors said CHS also failed to invest in the health network.

Dr. Matt Sprunger, who’s a founding member of NICHE (Northeast Indiana Citizens for Healthcare Excellence), responded to the firings with disappointment, saying, “Brian and Aaron have been leaders for patients, for safety, for staff, for the physicians. It’s a sad day. It gives me pause because those were two keys in this network that have advocated for patients, for our staff. And so it gives me great pause at the present time.”

“The dream when this place opened its doors was to be the place that exceeded everybody’s expectations,” continued Sprunger. “We’ve focused on quality, we’ve focused on safety, we focused on the experience. And I pray that going forward we can work with whomever our corporate partner is to deliver that and excel and go even better than Lutheran Health Network has been for the many decades it’s been.”

Mayor Tom Henry released this statement regarding Bauer’s removal:

The decision announced today by Community Health Systems to remove Brian Bauer as CEO of Lutheran Health Network is concerning to me. Brian is a respected and valuable member of our community. I consider Brian a friend and have been impressed by his leadership and commitment to Lutheran, Fort Wayne and the region. Last month, I had a telephone conversation with leaders from Community Health Systems to see what needed to occur for a positive resolution to be reached between them and the local hospital network. As part of that discussion, I offered to host an in-person meeting with Community Health Systems, local hospital leadership and myself. My office has yet to receive a response to that offer. I wish Brian the best in his future endeavors and encourage Community Health Systems to demonstrate a commitment to the future of the Lutheran Health Network.”

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long released this statement:

I was extremely disappointed to hear that Lutheran Health Network’s CEO Brian Bauer was let go by CHS today. Brian is one of the finest young talents I’ve ever met, and has become a stalwart in our community. The fact that he is revered by the physicians and staff of the entire Lutheran system speaks volumes about his leadership abilities. The fact that CHS has chosen to terminate its most valuable asset in northeast Indiana also speaks volumes about why this Tennessee corporation is struggling to stay afloat today. This is truly a regrettable decision.