Slidell Memorial Hospital CEO Bill Davis, who is credited with turning the public hospital around financially as well as guiding its expansion and a 2-year-old partnership with Ochsner Health System, will not seek a renewal of his contract, which expires Dec. 31, the hospital said Tuesday.

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Davis, 56, revealed his plans to Slidell Memorial's board of commissioners Monday night, and the board voted to hire the firm Korn Ferry to conduct a national search for his replacement. Davis will play an "integral role" in selecting the new CEO, the hospital said in a statement.

Dan Ferrari, president of the hospital board, said that Davis first indicated his plans to move on in late summer. Board members and officials at Ochsner both tried to persuade him to stay, Ferrari said.

But his decision, which the hospital said is based on family reasons, was firm, and SMH leadership decided it was time to begin working on hiring the next CEO in order to ensure a smooth transition, Ferrari said.

Getting the search started now will allow Davis to be involved in the transition, he added. 

Ferrari said an eight-person committee, with four members from Slidell Memorial and four from Ochsner, will be involved in interviewing candidates. Under the partnership with Ochsner, the CEO of Slidell Memorial is also CEO of Ochsner Medical Center-North Shore along with related clinics and outpatient facilities.

But the board of Slidell Memorial will make the final decision on the new hire, Ferrari said.

The hospital also recently lost its chief operating officer, Bruce Clement, who announced about two years ago that he would be retiring this year to run for mayor of Slidell. His replacement will not be hired until the new CEO is in place, a hospital spokesman said.

Members of the senior management team, under Davis' direction, are handling the COO duties in the interim.

Davis came to Slidell Memorial in 2001 from Southeast Medical Alliance Health Plan Inc. He was initially the chief financial officer, and hospital officials credit him with helping the facility rebound from what was described in a news release as a "precarious fiscal and operational situation" to become a local health care leader.

Ferrari said the hospital had to refinance its debt and get costs under control, and Davis played a big role in doing that. Slidell Memorial lost $12.8 million in 2000 but by the end of the next year had generated a surplus of $776,600. The hospital has made money every year since then except for 2011 and 2013, according to the news release.

The hospital board conducted a national search for a CEO prior to promoting Davis from within, Ferrari said, adding that Davis was very well qualified and had worked in all aspects of the health care industry.

As CEO, he oversaw the expansion of the hospital's Emergency Department in 2013 and the new SMH Heart Center.

Ferrari said that the partnership with Ochsner, which was signed in June 2015 and took effect in 2016, has been a success, with heart and cancer treatment moving to Slidell Memorial.

The partnership between two former competitors has resulted in financial stability for both and an increase in health care employment and services, Ferrari said.

Davis said in a statement that his departure was a difficult choice. He said he is indebted to the local officials and community leaders, doctors and nurses, and residents of eastern St. Tammany Parish who have supported Slidell Memorial.

"We have made our community healthier, smarter about health care, and we have given higher quality care to our patients while keeping costs in check," he said.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat. 

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