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Jackson retires from KDMC

Dec. 07, 2013 @ 12:48 AM

ASHLAND, Ky. — Fred Jackson announced Friday his retirement after 17 years at the helm of King's Daughters Medical Center. Chief Operating Officer Kristie Whitlatch, a longtime KDMC employee, is taking over for Jackson and has been named President/CEO of King's Daughters Health System.

"Being from the community, I know just how much KDMC is a part of our life," Whitlatch said in a news release. "I am humbled by the faith our board has placed in me and our team. King's Daughters Health System is a unique treasure in our community. We are an independent system where all decisions are made here, and all reinvestment is made locally. Our team will continue our 114-year journey of excellence."

Whitlatch started working at KDMC in the 1980s as a staff nurse, after earning a degree at Ashland Community College, said Tom Dearing, director of integrated communications at KDMC.

The Boyd County High School graduate also earned a bachelor's of science in nursing degree from Bellarmine College in Louisville and a master's of science in nursing from the University of Phoenix. Recently, Whitlatch has completed several courses in finance, mergers and acquisitions and executive development through the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Executive Education program.

In 2011, she was named vice president and COO of the health system. Prior to that, she served as vice president of Service Line Development and the Heart and Vascular Center.

"She has grown from a nurse to a nurse leader, and then led some of our biggest projects, including the development of our heart center and development and opening of our second hospital (in Portsmouth, Ohio) that opened in February of this year," Dearing said. "We think it's fantastic that someone can have a career here, and go from being a staff nurse to having the top job."

David Jones, chairman of the Health System's Board of Trustees, said the position is a permanent one.

"Kristie is one of our own, having been with the Health System since 1987, serving in a successive series of nursing and leadership roles," he said in a news release. "Her instincts and business acumen are stellar. We look forward to her 'taking the reins' and leading the Health System into exciting new territory."

Jackson's retirement occurs amid a federal investigation into the hospital's practices regarding heart procedures and a series of layoffs that have affected hundreds of employees.

The investigation by federal prosecutors has focused on suspected overstenting.

The most recent round of layoffs was in August. KDMC cut 148 jobs, a result of what the administration said was a restructuring of its operations due to declining patient volumes and lower reimbursement levels.

Ashland City Commissioner Kevin Gunderson said he thinks a change in leadership was due at KDMC, which has 3,800 employees and is licensed for 465 beds.

"I want to meet with the new CEO and see what she thinks she can do to help KDMC turn the ship around," he said. "It remains a viable part of our community and region. (The layoffs and investigation have) caused undue hardship on the employees and possibly the community, which has always been supportive of KDMC."

Under Jackson's direction, the Health System expanded services most in demand by patients, including cardiac care, primary care and orthopaedics. The Health System also grew geographically, establishing primary care and specialty offices in 50 locations, including Prestonsburg, Ky., Jackson, Ohio, and many more.

"I wish Mr. Jackson and his wife the very best in the future and believe that KDMC is the strongest asset in the city of Ashland, and I wish them continued success," said Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles.

King's Daughters Health System is a family of health care companies based in Ashland. The system includes King's Daughters Medical Center in Ashland and King's Daughters Medical Center Ohio in Portsmouth, Ohio. It also includes Kingsbrook Lifecare Center, a long- and short-term care facility; King's Daughters Medical Transport, an ambulance transport company; King's Daughters Medical Specialties, an integrated medical provider group; King's Daughters Health Foundation, a philanthropic and fund raising group; and King's Daughters Heart Foundation, a research company.

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