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Ken Kates sees last day as University of Iowa hospitals CEO

Chief operating officer will serves as temporary 'designee'

Ken Kates, chief executive officer of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Ken Kates, chief executive officer of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

After a decade atop Iowa’s largest hospitals and clinics system — leading it through programmatic and physical transformation, including implementation of an electronic health record system and construction of a 14-story Children’s Hospital — on Tuesday UI Hospitals and Clinics CEO Ken Kates served his last day.

The University of Iowa in August named Suresh Gunasekaran as its next UIHC chief executive officer and associate vice president of UI Health Care, after Kates in January announced plans to retire this summer.

Gunasekaran, chief operations officer for the University of Texas Southwestern Health System in Dallas, is scheduled to join the Iowa enterprise Nov. 15.

In the interim, the university has tapped UIHC Chief Operating Officer Sabi Singh as “CEO designee,” effective immediately. Singh stepped in as designee when the CEO was absent for short periods in the past, and he’ll maintain his regular duties during this stint, according to a UIHC spokeswoman Molly Rossiter.

Once Gunasekaran arrives, Singh will return to his sole post of chief operating officer.   

Kates’ departure is one of many recently atop the UI Health Care enterprise, which saw its last Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard retire last fall. His successor, Brooks Jackson, has been on the job nearly a year.

Past Chief Financial Officer Ken Fisher also retired in 2017. The university recently hired Bradley Haws for that vacancy, and he started Aug. 20.

During Kates’ time atop the organization from 2008 to 2018, it expanded its clinical enterprise — including the Iowa River Landing in Coralville, QuickCare clinics across the region, and primary and specialty care locations in more than 30 communities.

The system reported increases of 16-percent in inpatients, 23-percent in outpatients, and 33 percent in surgeries from 2009 to 2017; maintained a consistent ranking among the nation’s best hospitals, according to U.S. News & World Report; earned a top spot on Forbes’ “America’s Best Employers” list; and erected a more than $360 million Stead Family Children’s Hospital in 2017.

He’s also weathered some challenges and controversy, including over management of that Children’s Hospital project and financial headwinds and changes across the health care landscape.

UIHC in recent budget years reported shortfalls and a deficit, prompting Kates to roll out an $86 million savings plan that cut expenses and found programmatic and salary efficiencies. l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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