UPDATED at 3:15 p.m. Sept. 20:
Southwest Healthcare System spokesman Paul Cox issued a statement today announcing that Friday, Sept. 21 is Ken Rivers' last day at the company. No replacement has yet been found to fill the empty CEO seat, according to today's statement.
"Mr. Rivers has been the CEO at Southwest Healthcare since April 2010. Prior to serving as CEO at Southwest, Mr. Rivers was the CEO for Corona Regional Medical Center, another subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.," Cox said.
"During his tenure at Southwest Healthcare System, Mr. Rivers made great progress in advancing the level of care, enacting numerous beneficial changes and improvements that will continue for years to come. Southwest Healthcare System is well positioned to continue to provide the highest quality healthcare to patients and to fulfill its mission to the community.
"A search for Ken Rivers’ replacement will begin immediately."
Murrieta Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs said he received the news when Rivers announced his departure Sept. 7 at a Murrieta Temecula Group breakfast.
"My bottom line is that SWHC could not have gotten past their monumental problems in the time that they had available without Ken Rivers," Gibbs said.
"While Ken has put in place the changes and processes that were necessary, the future also depends upon the selection of a replacement with the accomplishments and skills of a Ken Rivers," Gibbs continued.
"This was an opportunity for him to move up the CEO chain."
Inland Valley Medical Center’s top chief is leaving his post to take a position with Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Hank Lee, CEO of CHA Health Systems in Los Angeles, confirmed the news that Southwest Healthcare System CEO Ken Rivers will lead Hollywood Presbyterian as CEO effective Oct. 1.
Southwest Healthcare System operates Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar and Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta.
“He will be a major asset to us,” Lee said. “He is an extremely intelligent visionary and we’re excited to have him on board.”
CHA Health Systems operates the 434-bed Hollywood Presbyterian, as well as several hospitals in Korea and a research center in the Boston area, Lee said.
Southwest Healthcare System has been mum regarding Rivers’ departure. Repeated messages left with Southwest's media spokesman have not been returned, and at press time there have been no official public statements released on the healthcare provider’s website.
News of Rivers’ departure was publicly announced by Murrieta City Councilwoman Kelly Bennett during open session of the Sept. 18 city council meeting. Bennett thanked the CEO for his service to her community and said he will be missed.
Southwest Healthcare System has seen difficult times in recent years. Problems dating back to 2007 led to a finding by California Department of Public Health investigators that the provider was putting patient health in jeopardy. As a result, state officials threatened to pull the Southwest Healthcare's Medicare/Medicaid funding and revoke its license to operate both local hospitals. Either move would have effectively shut down the facilities.
In April 2010, then-Southwest Healthcare System CEO Dennis Knox resigned amid a flurry of criticism. Rivers, who was serving as CEO at Corona Regional Medical Center, replaced Knox.
Under Rivers, last year state investigators cleared Southwest Healthcare System after the provider took steps to improve its patient services.
It is not immediately clear why Rivers is leaving Southwest Healthcare System or who his replacement will be.
Universal Health Services, the umbrella over Southwest Healthcare System, is currently building another hospital in Temecula. The 140-bed acute care Temecula Valley Hospital is expected to open in mid 2013. --Maggie Avants contributed to this story.