Reflections on Retiring as CEO of BayCare Health System

When I started in the finance department at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1993, our four-county area had a population of only 2.5 million; Four years later, when St. Joseph’s was one of the non-profit hospitals that make up the Baycare Health System, it had 2.6 million. Now, as I retire as CEO of BayCare, 3.8 million people call Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties home.

I am proud to be a part of the development and optimization of your community-owned health care system. BayCare now has 15 hospitals (soon to be 16) and a fully integrated network of services that reaches approximately one-third of the region’s population each year.

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As I reflect on BayCare’s accomplishments, I am most proud that our team members and physicians have been able to maintain the mission we began with: to improve the health of all we serve. Huh. I believe that keeping BayCare strong is critical to ensuring that Tampa Bay and West Central Florida continue to be vibrant, healthy places to live.

At the end of this month, Stephanie Connors, who began her career as a nurse and has helped lead the health care systems in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the past two decades, will become the only person to lead this important community organization. Will become the fourth person.

BayCare was created in 1997 when a small group of non-profit hospital systems looked to ensure they remained strong and relevant in a complex and highly competitive health care environment. At stake was the strength of local, community-led hospitals whose primary interest was to serve their communities.

The history of these hospitals was intertwined with that of their communities. They were founded by nurses, physicians and community-minded individuals. They were funded by legions of religious organizations, wealthy patrons, and small-dollar donors. He remained an independent for decades due to hard work, understanding and the spirit of service.

But the market was changing. These hospitals banded together in a unique partnership, each agreeing to manage their operations by BayCare, a new organization with the same community focus.

Since those founding days, BayCare has matured greatly. We have built more hospitals to serve our communities and others have joined us. Together, each year, we plow back around 10 percent of our revenue into charity care or other community investments.

And BayCare has evolved to ensure that our communities have access to all levels of health care – not just hospitals – so that individuals can get care when they need it, near or in their home. It includes one of the region’s largest physician organizations, BayCare Medical Group, and an extensive network of outpatient facilities and services, including BayCare HomeCare.

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I’m also proud of the commitment we’ve made to our region’s youngest and our collective mental health. These are important to us, not because they are major contributors to financial results (because they are not), but because they are fundamental to the long-term health of any community.

We are the region’s largest provider of pediatric care, including exceptional, specialty care at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. We are also the largest provider of behavioral health services and continue to grow in capacity. Our Board of Trustees is deeply committed to the mental health of our region and that is why we supported the founding of Tampa Bay Thrives.

Together, we have built a health care system that has been repeatedly recognized nationally as being in the top 20% of the nation. The commitment of our 27,753 team members and nearly 5,000 physicians to our communities is incredibly inspiring. And you, by trusting us, have also helped us grow and stay strong.

Health care is a constantly changing industry due to advances in science as well as regulation. I feel better about the future of our communities because BayCare is here and remains steadfast in its commitment to clinical excellence and its mission to serve the health of communities. It is a matter of pride for all of us.

Tommy Ignana, CEO and President of ByCare, will be retiring later this month after 29 years with the organization.

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