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St. Joe CEO leaves before taking helm

March 24, 2019 GMT

Barely two weeks after moving from her position as CEO at Lutheran Hospital to what was called an “equivalent position” at St. Joseph Hospital, Paula Autry is moving again.

This time, she is taking a position as project CEO with Community Health Systems, Lutheran Health Network’s parent company, spokesman Geoff Thomas confirmed in an email Saturday.

“After further consideration about her future goals, Paula Autry has made the decision not to transfer to the CEO position at St. Joseph Hospital,” the email said. “We appreciate the many contributions Paula has made at Lutheran and wish her well in her future endeavors.”

The statement did not elaborate on the location or duties of the project CEO position.

Autry had been on the Lutheran CEO job less than 18 months when she was transferred to the St. Joe position. The move would have been effective April 1, and she was to succeed Karen Fordham as St. Joe CEO.

When Autry was named to head St. Joe, she expressed excitement in shepherding the new hospital that Community Health has pledged to build downtown by 2021.

Community Health has made no announcements in recent months about progress toward the proposed $120 million facility.

Autry’s move to St. Joseph, announced earlier in March, was part of a shake-up in Lutheran management that included a new network CEO and a new network chief nursing officer.

Lutheran announced Friday that an interim CEO, Tony Degina, had been named and would join the hospital Wednesday.

“Degina brings more than 30 years of executive hospital management experience to Lutheran, having worked in large hospital facilities with sophisticated healthcare services,” Thomas states in the email. For the last seven years, Degina was CEO of Largo Medical Center, a 450-bed hospital in Florida, the email adds.

Lutheran continues to search for a permanent CEO, the email says.