New hospital boss will work his way to the top

OLYMPIA - Jim Geist is Capital Medical Center's new chief executive officer, a 12-year veteran of the health care industry who will join the west-side hospital May 3.

Before Geist, 43, becomes CEO, he first will work as the hospital’s chief operating officer and then transition to chief executive in the next three months. He replaces interim Chief Executive Joe Sharp, 64.

Geist comes to Capital Medical Center from Southwestern Medical Center in Lawton, Okla., where he had worked as an interim CEO for the past four months. The 199-bed Southwestern Medical Center and the 110-bed Capital Medical Center are owned by Capella Healthcare of Tennessee.

Before Southwestern, Geist was the CEO of Mountain View Regional Medical Center, a 168-bed hospital in Las Cruces, N.M.

Geist said Tuesday that he’s not a stranger to the Northwest. He has family in Oak Harbor and has visited Olympia. He has spent most of his time in the Seattle area, he said.

As the chief operating officer and eventually as chief executive of Capital Medical, Geist said he wants to continue to build on all areas of the hospital, although he said he would focus on the hospital’s emergency room, orthopedic care and primary care to start.

“If I came in tomorrow, those would be my first three areas,” he said.

Geist acknowledged he can’t do it alone and plans to seek input from doctors at the hospital as well as the community to help shape priorities at Capital Medical. Geist also said he will work to establish a collaborative relationship with Olympia’s Providence St. Peter Hospital.

That relationship has been strained in recent months.

Capital Medical Center’s previous CEO, Michael Motte, who left in August, called Providence “predatory” last year after the hospital decided to open a family medical practice on the city’s west side, just as Capital Medical Center was about to open a renovated and expanded family practice of its own.

Providence officials also opposed Capital Medical Center’s efforts to offer angioplasty services to its patients on an elective basis. Capital Medical won that right from the state Department of Health last year, although the decision was appealed by Providence.

Geist wasn’t ready to discuss the angioplasty issue between the two hospitals, although cardiac care is another area he plans to focus on.

Capital interim CEO Sharp said his last day at the hospital likely will be July 31. Sharp was the CEO at the hospital from 1998 to 2006, then rejoined the hospital after Motte left. He called his time at the hospital “wonderful” and said Capella continues to invest in the hospital and its people since it was purchased in 2005. Sharp described himself as a “free agent” after July 31.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403