Charles Miller's 14-year tenure at Piedmont Medical Center is coming to an end.
The hospital's chief executive officer is leaving for a larger role with Tenet Healthcare, Piedmont's parent company. He will assist with hospital operations in Alabama, George, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Phil Shaw, who recently served as interim chief executive officer at the East Cooper Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, was named as Miller's temporary replacement, said a Piedmont spokeswoman.
Tenet is conducting a national search to find Miller's replacement.
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During Miller's leadership, Piedmont Medical Center added a $30 million women's center, made improvements to its emergency department, surgical center, converted rooms from double beds to single beds and added staff.
His time also was marked by tension. York County, which has a contract with Piedmont over hospital operations, questioned the high cost of health care at the Rock Hill hospital. In 2001, when Piedmont's rates were determined to be the highest among its peers, the hospital froze its rates. Piedmont has worked with county officials to contain costs.
The quality of health care also was questioned last summer when Medicare data showed Piedmont had above-average death rates for heart attack, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Piedmont officials disputed the method used to calculate the findings and pointed to other health care ratings which praised its congestive heart failure care, as well as its stroke care.
Miller has been a tireless advocate for the community. He is the only person to twice serve as chairman of the board for the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. He also has been a leading advocate for a Fort Mill hospital. He first proposed building a Fort Mill hospital in 2004, sparking a controversy with hospitals in Charlotte that remains unresolved to this day.
Miller declined to talk with the Herald on Friday, but his friends and colleagues praised him as a strategic thinker, an idea man. They also said Miller was a pretty good golfer.
His style may have been abrasive to some, but Rob Youngblood, president of the York County Regional Chamber, said, "Charlie is very direct. You know where you stand with him. . . He seldom minces his words."
Youngblood said Miller's style was, in part, due to his job. "He had important work to do, he had to make hard decisions."
Dr. Jim Parsons put it more simply, "Charlie Miller is good at herding cats."
Parsons, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, worked with Miller to improve the out-patient surgical center. The center treats between 5,000 and 6,000 patients yearly and its rates are less than those charged by Carolina HealthCare System (Carolinas Medical Center) or Novant Health (Presbyterian Hospital) in Charlotte, Parsons said.
Parsons said Miller had a very hands-on approach to improving the center and in containing costs. Miller's first job was as a certified public accountant and he holds a master's degree in business administration from Tulane University.
"He was at the forefront of containing costs," Parsons said.
"There are a lot of good things people don't see about Miller," Parsons said, citing his support for making sure the surgical center had the most up-to-date equipment. "That's extraordinary," Parsons said.
Miller was hired by Piedmont in April 1988 as a senior vice president for operations, responsible for the day-to-day operations.
He came to Rock Hill from Slidell, La., where he was the chief executive officer for North Shore Regional Medical Center. Previously, Miller had served in various capacities at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans.
A year after he came to Piedmont, he was named the hospital's chief executive officer after Paul Walker left for a senior manager's position with Tenet Healthcare.
Miller looked for ways to expand Piedmont's reach into the community, adding urgent care centers and other physician practices. In 2004, he proposed building a 64-bed hospital to serve the growing Fort Mill area. Many of those needing health care in that area were traveling across the state line to North Carolina.
The state's Department of Health and Environmental Control issued Piedmont a certificate of need to build a Fort Mill facility in 2006. Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health, which also applied, appealed that decision.
In 2010 a state judge ordered the applicants to refile, ruling DHEC had not followed the proper procedures in awarding the certificate of need to Piedmont.
In September, DHEC awarded the certificate of need to Carolinas HealthCare System for a Fort Mill hospital. Piedmont and Novant Health have appealed that decision. No trial date before the state Administrative Law Court has been set.
Skip Tuttle, a former chairman of the board, said Miller's legacy is higher quality care, more extensive services and a significant investment in the improving, and adding to, hospital facilities.
Tuttle said Miller's new job and the status of the Fort Mill hospital are unrelated.
In his new job, Miller will be over operations at Piedmont. Overall, his job is "how do you improve hospital operations," said Tenet spokeswoman Carol Britton.
It is unclear whether Miller will continue to have a role in efforts to build a Fort Mill hospital.