By Tara Bannow

The Bulletin

Six months into the search for a new chief executive officer, St. Charles Health System says it’s down to three finalists for the job.

St. Charles announced in January that current President and CEO Jim Diegel would step down from his position once his replacement was selected and that the search would begin that month.

The health system’s board of directors is overseeing the recruitment. Board Chairman Tom Sayeg said in a statement the board hopes to make an offer by the end of August.

“We started with 16 candidates and have narrowed the field to the three we believe have the depth and experience we are looking for in the next St. Charles Health System president and CEO,” said Sayeg, who did not return a request for comment Friday.

St. Charles spokesperson Kayley Mendenhall could not provide the names of the finalists, nor could she say what the new administrator’s salary will be. Diegel, who has been in his position for eight years, made nearly $542,000 in 2012 and took in another $136,000 in other compensation. Mendenhall declined to provide Diegel’s current salary.

Oak Brook, Illinois-based executive search firm Witt/Kieffer oversaw the national candidate search.

The announcement that Diegel was stepping down came one month after St. Charles announced it was cutting two top administrative positions — Jay Henry, CEO of St. Charles Bend, and Kirk Schueler, St. Charles’ chief administrative officer — as part of a cost-cutting measure designed to save $2.4 million. St. Charles leaders said Diegel’s departure was unrelated to the restructuring.

At least five other administrative positions were eliminated through that restructuring as well, including Tim Eixenberger, the former chief nursing officer of St. Charles Bend. He made $317,031 in 2012 plus $27,451 in other compensation, putting him among the health system’s highest-paid administrators that year. The average salary for a chief nursing officer in 2011 was $148,112, according to a survey by Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service.

Eixenberger’s was one of two CNO positions eliminated as part of a consolidation of the health system’s CNO positions.

A chief nursing officer is typically an organization’s highest-ranking administrative nurse and is responsible for ensuring consistent practices, supporting an interdisciplinary team approach and recruiting and retaining employees, according to the National Student Nurses Association.

St. Charles also has a chief nursing executive, Pam Steinke, who was not available for comment Friday.

Before the change, St. Charles had a CNO who oversaw nursing operations at the Bend hospital, one at St. Charles Madras and another who oversaw St. Charles Redmond and Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville.

Now, Karen Reed, formerly the CNO for St. Charles Redmond and Pioneer Memorial, serves as CNO for Bend and Redmond. Christine Gish, formerly the CNO at the Madras hospital, is no longer with St. Charles. Mendenhall said she did not know whether the departure was voluntary.

St. Charles is embarking on a national search for a new CNO to oversee nursing operations at St. Charles Madras and Pioneer Memorial Hospital.

In a news release, Lenexa, Kansas-based B.E. Smith wrote that St. Charles had retained the company to recruit the new CNO, who will spend most of his or her time in Madras. According to the release, that person will provide strategic analysis and guidance to nursing operations while focusing on meeting budget targets.

“Key objectives include integrating the recently acquired St. Charles Madras into the health system, as well as ensuring a smooth transition to St. Charles Prineville, a 62,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art medical facility currently under construction that will replace Pioneer Memorial Hospital,” the release said.

Alison Hamway, a labor relations representative with the Oregon Nurses Association who works with nurses at St. Charles Bend, said nurses at St. Charles Bend are “very, very happy” with Reed. Hamway is not a nurse, but works with them regularly through her position at the Oregon Nurses Association.

CNOs meet regularly with Oregon Nurses Association officials to report on the overall direction of nursing at hospitals and typically are very visible on hospital floors and involved in everyday operations, Hamway said.

“It’s an important and difficult role,” she said, “and I think what nurses value in a good CNO is somebody who listens, who is compassionate and caring, who is consistent and has a vision of the future of nursing.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0304,