This Tri-Cities hospital has lost its longtime CEO

John Serle, Lourdes president and chief executive officer, has resigned after holding the Pasco hospital’s top post for 13 years.
John Serle, Lourdes president and chief executive officer, has resigned after holding the Pasco hospital’s top post for 13 years. Tri-City Herald file

Lourdes Health Network has lost its longtime president and CEO.

John Serle, who held the post for 13 years, wrapped up his tenure last week — as the Pasco hospital system changed hands to the Tennessee-based RCCH HealthCare Partners.

RCCH asked Serle to stay on and continue to lead Lourdes as the CEO after the sale, however, “because of issues related to” a contract he had with Lourdes’ former owner, Ascension, that wasn’t possible, Serle said in a statement.

He announced his departure “with heavy heart.”

He added that Lourdes’ future is “bright and exciting” with RCCH.

Mark Gregson, a longtime health care official, will fill in on an interim basis while RCCH searches for a permanent replacement, the company said Tuesday.

“We have already begun a national search. ... Once we have identified candidates, we will coordinate with the hospital board, hospital leaders and members of the medical staff to finalize the naming of the new CEO,“ a company statement said.

Gregson brings more than 35 years of experience in hospital and health care leadership, including working the last 13 years as an interim hospital CEO around the country.

He most recently was the interim leader of The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus in Topeka, Kan., RCCH said in its statement.

He holds an MBA in health and hospital administration from the University of Florida.

The sale of Lourdes to the RCCH became official at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

It was a move about three years in the making — since the nonprofit Ascension shifted focus to larger metro areas, leaving Lourdes in need of a new partner.

State regulators recently approved the $21 million sales of Lourdes Medical Center and its conversion to a for-profit facility. File Tri-City Herald

Capella Healthcare stepped up and started the process of buying the Pasco hospital. Along the way, Capella merged with RegionalCare Hospital Partners to become RCCH. (The letters in RCCH are a nod to that pre-merger name).

Another change for RCCH is on the horizon: the company is merging with LifePoint Health, also based in Tennessee. The deal is expected to close over several months.

RCCH is the same company that recently purchased Trios Health in Kennewick as part of a public-private partnership with Seattle’s UW Medicine. Lourdes, a Catholic institution, will retain its religious identity and won’t be part of that partnership.

Lourdes was founded in 1916 by nuns who were part of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

It includes a downtown Pasco hospital and a behavioral health center in Richland.

It has about 900 employees. RCCH has said no layoffs or service cuts are planned, and it will invest about $18 million in Lourdes over five years.

In his statement, Serle noted the last three years have been uncertain for Lourdes.

“Even so, our team has never wavered in their focus on caring for our patients and their families and their commitment to high quality, compassionate care has always been at the forefront, regardless of the challenge,” he said.

He added that, “the future of Lourdes is both bright and exciting. I believe RCCH will be a supportive, diligent and engaged parent organization.”

In its statement, RCCH said that having an interim CEO like Gregson “allows us the time we need to find the right new leader for Lourdes.”

“We are excited to have Lourdes Health Network as part of RCCH and supporting you as you serve the people of the Tri Cities,” the company said.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529