Hospital CEO/CNO Tom Neal addresses Highlands Town Board

At the Thursday, Dec. 12 Town Board meeting, attendees got to meet and hear from newly hired CEO/CNO of Highlands Cashiers Hospital, Thomas Neal.

Pictured at the toip of the article is Dr. Patti Wheeler who introduced Highlands Cashiers Hospital’s CEO/CNO Tom Neal at the Town Board meeting.

Neal most recently held the position of CEO of Community Health Systems (CHS). During his time with CHS, he served as CEO of both Berwick Hospital Center in Berwick, PA and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, in Ronceverte, WV.

As CEO of Berwick Hospital Center, Tom helped to rebuild their primary care physician base and also led efforts to bring about significant improvements in patient experience scores, safety and quality outcomes.
Chief Primary Care Physician at Highlands Cashiers Hospital Dr. Patti Wheeler, who is also on the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) board, introduced Neal and said she feels very good about him and the hospital’s future with him at the helm.

“He has had a lot of experience. He is familiar with communities that are similar to ours which I think is a blessing,” she said. “He is here to stay and isn’t using this position to climb the ladder. That’s why we are excited to have him as a part of the community. I think he is a great asset and I look forward to working with him.”

Mayor Pat Taylor said Neal has a wonderful record of improving doctors and staff and creating new programs.

“I really look forward to hearing from Neal and his staff about all the plans and innovations he has in mind for our hospital,” said Taylor.

Neal who began as a nurse almost 30 years ago said he got into healthcare because he liked taking care of people.

“I feel that being able to serve in the health care field is one of the most rewarding things you can do,” he said.

He moved into the administration sector about 15 years ago when he went to Hilton Head where he served in a variety of roles.

The one that was of particular interest to the community and the hospital there was the work he did in recruiting.

“During my time there I served as business development officer. I recruited about 36 positions to that market. We did open some services – a breast health center in Bluffton, and a new medical office building,” he said.

His last stop prior to coming to Highlands was at Berwick Hospital Center in Berwick, PA.

“I restored a lot of services there – they had lost seven primary care positions in the few years prior to me getting there. So that job was really about trying to restore those primary care positions. We recruited six back to the hospital and were able to really get that going.”

While living in Hilton Head, he and his family vacationed in Hayesville, NC so he was glad to hear of the position in Highlands. He and his wife bought a house on Little Bear Pen.

“Being part of healthcare in a rural setting means being part of the community. I won’t give plans. I am going to listen and learn first. Get to know what the needs are, who the people are and then I will come back and tell you where it is. I will assure you that recruiting doctors is one of the things we need to do. There’s no question about that – what other services we can add? That’s just one thing you’ll have to wait and hear what I have to say,” he said.

He said he has learned that there are really great people at Highlands Cashiers Hospital.

“The level of commitment, the professionalism, the dedication – is incredible. I am proud to be a part of this organization and I look forward to being part of the community for some time to come.”

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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