Interim CEO of Memorial Health expected to serve 6-12 months

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Following the announcement of Kerry Watson as Memorial Health's new interim president and CEO, we're learning that his time there will be limited.

Watson is temporarily taking over the job after CEO Maggie Gill announced her resignation last month, and officials say they only expect him to be there between six to 12 months. They are hopeful that during that timeframe, decisions will be made regarding finding another financial partner.

The decision to hire Mr. Watson was a joint decision. There was a search committee comprised of both Memorial board members and the Chatham County Hospital Authority. Curtis Lewis, Chairman of Memorial's board, says he's met Watson twice and says he comes highly recommended with very relative experience. He was CEO of Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Boston and recently served as interim Chief Operations Officer at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in New York state.

While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, the chairman of the board believes the hospital is headed in the right direction.

WTOC: "What do you say to all the embers of the hospital who are frustrated, who don't know what's going to happen, and are walking on eggshells every day?"

"I would say, no need to walk on eggshells, that this hospital will continue, it's mission will continue. The most important part of this hospital are the team members who work here every day, and that part will not change," said Memorial Health Board Chairman Curtis Lewis.

What role will the newly named interim CEO at Memorial Health play in finding another financial partnership?

I'm told it is unclear what role - if any - Watson will have in the overall selection process because he's only expected to be here for a limited time.

"I don't think he's interested in a permanent position," said Lewis.

Lewis says Watson has made it clear his days in Savannah are numbered.

"He's coming off another job, as I understand it, and wants to do his own consulting business," said Lewis.

Lewis says Watson comes highly recommended and has experience as both CEO and chief operations officer. But this announcement comes at a time of uncertainty and speculation, especially about why CEO Maggie Gill decided to resign

WTOC: "There's been some speculation that she needed to get out of the picture in order to move forward."

"No, not true," Lewis replied.

He says Gill will still be around once Watson takes over to help with the overall transition process. But it's still unclear if Watson will be involved in seeking a financial partner.

WTOC: "What role is he going to play in finding a new partner?"

"We'll have to see," Lewis said.

WTOC: "Is he going to be on any of the committees?"

"I don't know," replied Lewis.

Lewis also couldn't be specific on where the search committee stands on finding a new financial partner. But remember, that's not the only option the hospital has. Lewis says he's eager to meet with Chatham County Chairman Al Scott after a WTOC investigation revealed the county doesn't give the public hospital a dime.

"I do know that other counties, Fulton and DeKalb, support Grady Hospital as I think you pointed out in your piece a few weeks ago. As I understand it, Memorial is the only safety net hospital in the state that doesn't receive money from the county in which it exists," said Lewis.

Lewis says he's already reached out to Chairman Scott to hopefully set up a time soon to meet with him.

Watson currently lives in North Carolina. WTOC reached out to him but he was not available to give us a comment Wednesday.

Before Maggie Gill, there was Phillip Schaengold. He was hired in June of 2009 and fired in January 2011 for reportedly not turning finances around.

That same month, Gill was named interim president before becoming president two months later. Six years later, Gill announced her resignation.

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