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New hospital chief promises open door

Tampa General's new president, Ron Hytoff, says he was reluctant to take over his boss' job.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2000

TAMPA -- With cameras rolling and reporters barking questions, the scene at Tampa General Hospital did not look all that different Friday.

The president praised the hospital's commitment to the poor and urged lawmakers to help Tampa General get more tax support.

But while the message sounded the same, the voice was different.

Ron Hytoff, Tampa General's new president, introduced himself Friday as a reluctant successor to former hospital president Bruce Siegel, who hired Hytoff as chief operating officer in 1997. Siegel stepped down Wednesday after the hospital's board of directors lost confidence in him.

"I did not want this job," Hytoff said, "and I did not seek it."

But Wednesday afternoon, after hospital board chairman H.L. Culbreath offered him the top job, Hytoff, 54, took it on a handshake. Hytoff had turned down the chief executive officer job at another major teaching hospital when Siegel recruited him to Tampa General three years ago. He thought he and Siegel were a good fit: Siegel, then 35, had bold ideas and Ivy League credentials but no experience running a hospital; Hytoff, then 51, a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University and the son of a factory worker in suburban Chicago, had been a hospital CEO for 16 years.

Drafted during the Vietnam War, Hytoff, an elementary teacher in Chicago, wanted to be a fighter pilot, but his eyesight wasn't good enough. So he worked with doctors at an Army base in Anchorage, Alaska, where an officer one day suggested he go into hospital management.

As TGH president, Hytoff said, he would take direction from his board. He wouldn't say whether he supported Siegel's attempt to buy three area hospitals last year, and he wouldn't say whether hospital board meetings should be open to the public.

The board announced later Friday that it would hold an open meeting with a group from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce next week and let the chamber's hand-picked financial expert inspect the hospital's books.

Hytoff also pledged an open administration, gave reporters his pager number and told them to call any time.

But Hytoff would not disclose his salary, although he did say he received a raise. His previous TGH contract called for a $225,000 annual salary, a $700 monthly allowance for expenses and one year's severance pay if fired.

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