Keith Petersen, chief executive officer of Phoebe Sumter Medical Center for the past four years, will retire on Sept. 3.
Petersen was first made interim CEO of Phoebe Sumter on July 1, 2009, two years after a tornado destroyed what was then known as Sumter Regional Hospital. In November 2009, during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new hospital and medical complex, he was named permanent CEO.
Joel Wernick, president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System, said of Petersen, “On behalf of the Phoebe family, we wish him the very best in retirement and thank him for helping make Phoebe Sumter Medical Center one of the finest, if not the finest small hospital in the country. His hard work and dedication, not just to Phoebe but to the entire community, will be sorely missed.”
Prior to guiding Phoebe Sumter, Petersen successfully led Phoebe Worth in Sylvester and the Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert.
“We are thankful for the leadership Keith has provided the organization for the past 16 years,” said Tim Trottier, senior vice president, Regional Operations, Phoebe Putney Health System. “We will continue to meet the community’s healthcare needs in and around Americus. We are confident that the outstanding medical staff, board members and Phoebe family members in place at Phoebe Sumter will continue to grow and succeed in our goal of providing world-class healthcare with hometown commitment to the region.”
Petersen, in a recent interview with the Americus Times-Recorder, said he wants to do something different now, after almost 50 years in healthcare.
“I started working in healthcare in 1976,” he said, “as an orderly and then as a respiratory therapist. While I was in college I worked full-time nights and attended school during the day ... I’ve been working in health care continuously since 1966, which is 47 years.”
Petersen said, “It’s time to go to the woodshop,” referring to his hobby of woodworking. He’s a member of a local group of men called the Wood Butchers.
“I’m gonna make a lot of sawdust,” he said with a smile. “And do a lot of wood turning. I have a thousand ideas of things I would like to do, and some education I want to get in wood turning. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
Petersen said he’s never had as much fun as he has had the last four years, as CEO of Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
“The challenges that we’ve had and the success we’ve turned those challenges into has been just phenomenal,” he said. We’ve had dramatic success; not just the hospital facility and campus, but in terms of increasing our volume across the board, in terms of the new physicians who have come (John and Patty Fennessy, Jeremy Joyner, Sean Sheff, Malcolm Floyd, to name a few), who have helped us increase the overall quality of patient care we provide but also the quality of care throughout the community.”
Petersen said they have increased their customer satisfaction levels as well as quality scores on a national level.
“Those are ... the outcome of all the hard work we’ve put in,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished, but it’s time to go in the wood shop.”
Petersen and his wife make their home in Americus, and he said they have no plans to leave because they so enjoy this community.
“My wife Linda and I love Americus and we wouldn’t live anywhere else,” he said. “We have many, many friends who we know will be lifelong friends. Americus has been good to us and we totally enjoy Americus.”
Petersen said that Sept. 3 will be his last day at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, and that there will be “a thorough search” for his successor.
Petersen came to Americus two years after the tornado that destroyed Sumter Regional, and he was impressed by what he found here.
“I was really impressed when I came by many of our managers and their commitment and our employees and their commitment to the hospital and to the community,” he said. “There was a strong backbone ... a strong starting point.
“And then to come into a community with such strong physicians here already (Dr. Doug Joyner, Dr. Mike Busman, Dr. David Campbell and many others), that gave us a very strong starting point in terms of how and where to move forward.”
Petersen is never short of praise for those who work at Phoebe Sumter.
“We have a great employee team,” he said. “Our employees are very committed to this organization and its success and to the community as well. The medical staff is the same. We have a great medical staff in terms of quality ... very high quality providers ... many communities our size don’t have the depth we have. ...
“I’m as proud as I can be of our successes. ... We have a tremendous future. We’re well positioned for the changes that will be coming through the Affordable Care Act ... that will hit next year, in terms of continuing the focus on cost containment and quality. The federal government is just starting to pay for quality and we’re poised to be successful in that area.”
Petersen said he has also found the support of the board of great benefit.
“The support that I’ve received from our board members — Brad LaFevers, Connie Blanchard, Robbie Latimore, Fred McLaughlin, Lara Gill — they’ve been tremendous, very, very supportive,” he said. “The hospital authority we’ve worked with side by side because of the lease arrangement ... they’ve been a great group to work with. Everyone is really committed to doing the best they can for the community and to meet the healthcare needs of the community.
“I told you when I came that our goal was to be a community leader alongside of Georgia Southwestern, South Georgia Tech, the City and the County and we are, and we will be,” he said.