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Athens-Limestone CEO
Former company commander takes over duties as hospital prepares for partnership

By Holly Hollman · 340-2445

ATHENS — Military experience isn’t a requirement to be the CEO of Athens-Limestone Hospital.

But Cary Payne may rely on his service as company commander of a combat support hospital as he embarks on this career change.

Payne became the acting chief executive officer after Phil Dotson retired from that position Jan. 1.

Payne’s stint at the helm has come at a hectic time.

Athens-Limestone announced this month its plan to partner with Huntsville Hospital. Together, the two community hospitals hope to stop Crestwood Medical Center, a for-profit hospital, from building a 60-bed facility in Madison.

Meanwhile, Athens-Limestone is growing at its main facility and elsewhere.

“I didn’t go into this blind,” Payne said.

“I knew it would be an exciting and challenging year.”

Payne has served as the chief operating officer at the hospital since 1996 and has heard the expectations of the community and demands of growth.

“The major area of complaint for virtually every hospital across the nation is emergent and urgent care services,” Payne said.

He said the emergency room treated more than 26,000 people in 2006. That’s about one-third of Limestone County’s population.

The hospital’s foundation is raising money for a $1 million emergency room expansion at the main facility. The foundation has raised half that amount.

The expansion will add seven beds for a total of 19.

Limestone Medical Village

To the east, Athens-Limestone is developing the 40-acre, $6 million Limestone Medical Village on Lindsay Lane to serve that growing area.

The diagnostic center there is to open at the end of May.

Payne said it will offer open-bore magnetic resonance imaging, high-tech digital mammography, digital X-ray, 3-D ultrasound and a faster and safer computed tomography machine called the 64-slice CT scanner.

As for the partnership with Huntsville, Athens-Limestone officials said it gives the hospital more purchasing power, allowing it to buy equipment at less cost, and more bargaining power when renewing staff and insurance provider contracts.

The two hospitals are still negotiating the partnership’s details, but Payne said it’s “not going toward a buyout.”

“We will still be owned by Athens and Limestone,” he said.

Although the hospital board is still searching for a permanent CEO, Payne appears to have the board and staff’s support.

Andy Jackson, chief of Therapy Services, said Payne has “always been a strong leader with a keen vision for the hospital.”

Jim Moffatt, board chairman, said the hospital’s commitment is to become even better at providing care to the community.

“Payne exemplifies that determination and will carry forward with our mission as acting CEO,” Moffatt.

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