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Hospital chief retiring

February 15, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

As he announced his plans to retire as head of Washington County Hospital, Horace W. Murphy sounded Tuesday like he'd just coached the winning Super Bowl team.

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"It's like leaving at the top of your game. You never want to stay beyond your best moment. You just always want to leave a winner," said Murphy, the president and chief executive officer of the Washington County Health System.

Murphy, who has headed the hospital for 20 years, said he plans to retire by July 2001.

According to Murphy and Health System Chairman Richard W. Phoebus Sr., the average length of stay for a CEO at a hospital is three to five years, but Murphy has held the post since October 1980.

Murphy said he will retire as soon as the board hires his successor and he has assisted in a smooth transition. That process could take as long as 18 months.

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"I'm extremely enthusiastic about this institution, what it's been able to do, where it's going and what its future looks like, but I think it's time for a change," said Murphy.

Under Murphy's leadership, HCIA Inc. and William Mercer Inc. named the hospital one of the 100 top hospitals in the nation in cost-efficiency and quality of medical care in 1997 and 1998

Last year the hospital was named one of the 100 top hospitals in orthopedics.

"I have always believed that a leader is only as good as the people who work for him because the people who work for him make him look good," said Murphy, 63, of Myersville, Md.

Under Murphy's leadership the hospital has gone from having a $32 million budget and 1,490 employees in 1984 to a health system having a $170 million budget and 2,564 employees, he said.

During that time the medical staff has grown from an estimated 58 doctors to approximately 130 doctors, he said.

"I can't say enough about what Mr. Murphy has accomplished for this hospital and for health care. He has a statewide reputation for integrity and excellence," said Lois Harrison, chairwoman of the Washington County Hospital Association.

During Murphy's tenure, the Robinwood Medical Center campus was constructed, physician practices have opened throughout the county and, most recently, the Walnut Street Community Health Center opened.

"It's been a marvelous ride," said Murphy, who has worked at the hospital for more than 22 years.

"There are few people who can look back on their career and say, despite its ups and downs, we've made a tremendous amount of progress, and we've left things better than we found them, and we've given our successor something strong and extremely worthwhile to build on," he said.

The Atlanta firm of Heidrick & Struggles has been hired to conduct a nationwide search for Murphy's replacement, he said.

Murphy will be involved in selecting his successor as part of a nine-person committee that will interview candidates and recommend someone to the full board of trustees.

"Murph has just been an outstanding health care executive," Phoebus said.

"You measure a chief executive officer by the performance of his company and, by any measure, to judge him by that yardstick has to say he's been an outstanding leader," Phoebus said.

Murphy didn't mention specific plans, but said he wants to travel and expects to become involved in a health-care related project.

He also said he wants to spend more time with his wife, Evelyn, and his grandson, Mark.

While he hasn't decided whether he will remain in the community once he retires, Murphy said he is sure he will spend some time in Florida where his son lives.

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