The top leaders of Saint John's Health Center were quietly and abruptly let go Thursday amid a major shake-up of the hospital's leadership that also included ousting a majority of the board of directors.
Chief Executive Officer Lou Lazatin and Chief Operating Officer Eleanor Ramirez were fired and replaced by acting CEO Mike Wall and new COO Ken Meehan.
The sudden reorganization was announced only to employees and volunteers via an internal email from Michael A. Slubowski, the CEO of Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, the Catholic-based nonprofit that operates St. John's.
In the email, Slubowski said the new administrators will work to improve the hospital's "financial viability" and "long-term sustainability."
"We are working currently at an operational loss. We have a positive cash flow," said Sarah Phelan, a hospital spokeswoman. She would not confirm reports that the ousted CEO was escorted off the hospital premises Thursday.
The Los Angeles Times reported the local hospital has lost money in the past few years, posting a $21.9 million loss in 2010 and $12.8 million in 2011, according to state records.
"In light of the challenging health care system and an increasingly competitive landscape in southern California," Slubowski wrote, "certain leadership changes at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica are in the best interests of the organization and the local community."
Lazatin, who previously worked numerous stints as the top administrator at a handful of smaller Southern California area hospitals, was CEO of Saint John's Health Center since 2005. She was replaced by Wall. Now the acting CEO at St. John's, Wall most recently was chief executive officer of Northridge Hospital Medical Center.
Meehan, most recently the executive vice president of hospital operations for John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, replaced Ramirez, Saint John's COO and executive vice president. A new senior financial administrator, Patrick Lash, was also appointed to the hospital's new leadership team.
Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong told the Times that Lazatin "was fired and escorted out of the building Thursday and that hospital board members were then fired by email."
While there were 17 members on the board in 2011 and 2012, according to the hospital's website, there are now five. Of the five, three are new and all hail from Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Slubowski, one of the two remaining board members, said he would seek out local leaders in the Santa Monica community to fill the remaining vacant seats.
"Making these decisions was extremely difficult and involved a significant amount of prayer and discussion," Slubowski wrote.
The vision for the hopsital's future is to align with local partners to improve access to health and wellness services in Santa Monica and nearby communities, he wrote in the email.
"We wish to maintain Saint John's as a Catholic ministry, with special concern for those who are poor and vulnerable," he said.