Effingham County Health System CEO Norma Jean Morgan retired abruptly Wednesday, the second time she has left the hospital while working there for more than three decades.
Morgan agreed to retire at a hospital authority board meeting on Tuesday, according to board chairman and Springfield lawyer Rick Rafter.
“The hospital is going through restructuring,” Rafter said. “She agreed to retire.”
When asked if Morgan was forced to retire, Rafter said, “No. Because of changes in the organization, she decided to retire.”
Morgan could not immediately be reached for comment.
The hospital issued a news release Wednesday afternoon that said, “Mrs. Morgan will be missed by her employees, patients and nursing home residents.”
Her departure comes after several important executives at the health system were fired in recent weeks.
Tammy Mims was terminated as chief operating officer and Mary Pizzino was terminated as chief information officer, Rafter said.
Michael Murphy, Effingham Hospital's strategic business liaison and occupational medicine manager, also was let go, he said. Murphy is Morgan’s brother-in-law, Rafter said.
Murphy’s wife and Morgan’s sister, Marie W. Murphy, continues to work with the health system’s Occupational Medicine Department in Port Wentworth, Rafter said.
The changes are part of the hospital restructuring and getting ready to reorganize as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Rafter said.
“We’re cutting out duplication and restructuring to be more efficient,” Rafter said.
A public hearing on the reorganization is set for July 5 and the change would take place in October, he said.
Rafter said Fran Baker-Witt, who has been chief transformation officer at the hospital since Jan. 6, will be interim CEO. He said the hospital authority will search for a new CEO but he doesn’t know yet how or when that will occur.
He said Baker-Witt will be considered for the permanent position.
When asked if any additional personnel changes are being considered, Rafter mentioned the CEO search and said the hospital is looking for a human resources manager.
Morgan spent 22 years at the hospital in 1970s and ‘80s, eventually working her way up to the top position. She resigned unexpectedly in October 1995 when hospital authority members told her to quit or be fired.
At that time, hospital officials said Morgan’s mismanagement and financial irresponsibility caused checks to bounce and resulted in other problems. Months of turmoil followed, staff positions were eliminated and layoffs were announced.
Morgan denied the allegations and later received $70,000 for an out-of-court settlement of a breach of contract lawsuit.
Morgan served as the director of Medicaid aging and community services in the Georgia Department of Community Health from 2000 to 2005.
She was re-hired as administrator of Effingham Hospital by a 3-2 vote in November 2005.
In the news release issued Wednesday, Rafter praised Morgan’s leadership to modernize the health system and to open 52,000 square feet of new clinical space in 2012.
“A state-of-the-art critical access hospital is now available for the citizens of Effingham County because of her vision,” the release said.
Morgan also served as nursing home administrator. She is a certified nursing home administrator and is a fellow with the American College of Healthcare Administrators.
Rafter has said Effingham Hospital is in much better financial shape than many rural hospitals in the state.
He said the hospital was $100,000 in the black last year, despite $12 million a year in uncompensated care. That’s because the county gives the hospital $3.6 million in tax money each year.
And Rafter credited good management as helping the hospital’s bottom line.