HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – After 15 years of managing the entire Huntsville Hospital system, CEO David Spillers says his departure has nothing to do with the pandemic that burdened the healthcare field over the last year and a half.
So why retire now?
“It’s been planned for quite a while. I let the board know probably two years ago that my timeline was going to be about now”, Spillers said. “I thought about this ever since before I started my career. You know, 62 seems like a pretty good time. Not too early, not too late, still young enough to do some things.”
And he doesn’t hesitate when you ask what he’s most proud of.
“The people. Great people, great leadership team. Just an outstanding organization. Probably what I’ll miss the most is walking through the hospital, talking to people and seeing smiling faces and knowing the care we deliver on a day to day basis”, said Spillers.
Those people are why he’s confident the system will continue to thrive under incoming CEO Jeff Samz; and why he’s also proud of the way his team handled the pandemic.
“It’s probably one of the more difficult years I’ve had in my career, but probably the most rewarding”, Spillers recalled. “There was no playbook for the pandemic. None of us had ever been through anything like this, but watching our team work, creating a flu and fever clinic in about 48 hours, and the vaccine clinics. Very proud of how we performed during the year, but it was a long year. We weren’t home like a lot of people. We were working, day and night.”
From managing resources, to speaking regularly at Covid-19 briefings to provide insight, they never stopped, and were never limited.
“Because we’ve been a very successful organization, we didn’t have to say, ‘Yeah you can do that but you can only use this much money.’ We never talked about money during Covid. We just talked about whatever it takes”, Spillers said.
Having navigated the system through the worst of the pandemic, Spillers says he’s optimistic the country will better handle a spike in cases, should one occur. But adds that one thing the pandemic revealed, is just how underfunded public health is.
“If you go to our rural communities, particularly outside of north Alabama, they were really lacking in resources”, said Spillers.
A problem he says extends far beyond sweet home Alabama.
Now, entering his next chapter, he says waking up without having every moment planned will be an adjustment, but he won’t end his healthcare career cold turkey.
“So I won’t be falling off a cliff, it’ll be kind of rolling down a hill. Maybe they’ll let me come down the hall, say hi to people and get my coffee in the morning”, Spillers said.
Jeff Samz has been with the Huntsville Hospital system for 12 years, and previously worked at Vanderbilt Health, Duck Health and Mission Health. He will take over as CEO of Huntsville Hospital upon Spillers’ retirement.
Spillers says he’s blessed that the board asked him to serve in a consulting role part time, so he’ll still walk the halls of Huntsville Hospital, and work with his team.