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Former Sebastian River CEO hired as No. 2 at Lawnwood

Photo: New Lawnwood emergency room on South U.S. 1.

If Lawnwood Regional Medical Center wants to make inroads into Indian River County, it has found an insider for its C-suite. Kelly Enriquez, former CEO of Sebastian River Medical Center, has been hired as the Fort Pierce hospital’s new chief operating officer.

Enriquez led the Sebastian hospital from March 2014 until last October, when she was asked to resign, a year and a half after Steward Health acquired Sebastian River and two hospitals in Brevard County.

At the time, Steward’s regional president, Daniel Knell, declined to further characterize the departure. Enriquez was replaced by Kyle Sanders, who remains as Sebastian River’s CEO today.

According to multiple sources, Sanders has overseen a spate of significant forced departures in the last few months, with more than a half-dozen leadership positions vacated in critical areas. Last week alone, seven upper- and lower-level staff members were let go, and more layoffs were rumored to be coming.

The sources, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said that the departures have saddled remaining staff with additional responsibilities.

A Steward spokeswoman, Anja Mayr, said the layoffs resulted from a recent decision “to consolidate staffing levels across certain departments.”

Mayr added, “Sebastian River Medical Center is currently recruiting medical professionals and support staff for more than 60 job openings. Moving forward, Sebastian will continue its tradition of providing high-quality, exceptional care to the community.”

Nevertheless, the exits have shaken some in the tight-knit hospital community. Friday, Sanders met with Rose Marie Breinlinger, the 82-year-old president of the 120-member volunteer auxiliary. She wanted to discuss how the program will continue now that its director has been let go, a loss she called a “killer” for her volunteers.

“I wanted to know if he was going to get rid of us,” said Breinlinger of her meeting with Sanders. “He told me, ‘Oh no, we could never do without our volunteers.’”

Breinlinger says Sanders expects the program to be managed by the hospital’s marketing director and assistant.

The departures come amid months of talk that the hospital may be struggling to keep patients coming after the takeover of its main competitor, Indian River Medical Center, by the Cleveland Clinic. Last week, Cleveland Clinic Indian River CEO Dr. Greg Rosencrance said Indian River’s inpatient volumes had risen 10 percent from January to June compared to the same time period last year.

Sources said staff at Sebastian River were quietly wondering where all the patients were even during the normally peak months of January, February and March.

If anything, Sebastian River needs to see more patients, not fewer, as it continues to build a $60 million, three-story tower of patient rooms and surgical facilities – although it now appears the expansion may have shrunk in size.

In October, Sanders told Vero Beach 32963 the second and third floors of the tower would add 48 private rooms. Today, the Boston-based builder, Suffolk, shows only 25 rooms on its website, possibly an indication that one of the two upper floors will be built out in a second phase.

Sebastian River Medical Center competes primarily with two hospitals, both about a 20-minute drive away – Cleveland Clinic Indian River to the south and Health First’s Palm Bay hospital to the north.

Lawnwood also competes for Indian River County’s patient pool, as a Level II trauma center with advanced heart and stroke care. Its emergency department is the only one in the area equipped for pediatric patients. Lawnwood has 380 beds. Indian River has 332, including the Behavioral Health Center. Sebastian River has 154, including 33 in its transitional care unit.

Regardless of what happens at Sebastian River Medical Center, Enriquez’s job at Lawnwood is about to get bigger, as she and CEO Eric Goldman implement a just-announced $100 million expansion and renovation that will add 32 beds and three operating rooms to the medical surgical unit and triple the size of spaces for recovery and pre-op.

This month, the Fort Pierce hospital added a new adolescent behavioral health program, and by fall, it expects to complete the freestanding emergency room being constructed on South U.S. 1 in Vero Beach. That 12-bed emergency department will have a trauma bay, pediatric rooms and a psych safe room.

A spokeswoman for Lawnwood said its parent company, HCA, does not release information on incoming C-suite executives apart from CEOs, and would not provide even a start date for Enriquez.

But a posting on LinkedIn showed the Lawnwood COO position open seven months ago. At press time, Enriquez’s profile on LinkedIn still showed her as CEO of Sebastian River.