His successor should occupy the Baptist spotlight, he said.
But Greene made an exception when We Care Jacksonville, A volunteer coalition of medical professionals that provides free primary and specialty care to the local uninsured population, asked to publicly honor him at its annual fundraising and awards gala, the Caring Celebration. He and Baptist helped build the hospital and specialist components of the coalition and he chaired an earlier, failed attempt to set up a similar program.
"If I had any regrets, it was the fact that we still have so many uninsured people who do not have access to health care like most of us do," he said. Working to improve that situation was a commitment made by him and by Baptist, he said, and the people of We Care "do an outstanding job."
"This is an organization I've been involved with now for decades. This was something extraordinary, important to me personally," he said.
Given his recent retirement, Greene's longtime work with We Care warranted a special honor at the
"This year's event is going to be a bit different in that we are presenting
SAVING SPIRITS TO SAVING LIVES
Greene, now 65, took a circuitous route to his leading role in health care in
When his minister father died, Greene was at
"I had done pretty well," he said.
Still, after graduation, he headed to seminary instead of medical school.
"I followed in his footsteps," he said.
After obtaining a master's degree of divinity from the
"I loved the hospital environment," he said.
Greene ultimately obtained his second master's degree -- in hospital administration, from the
He chafes at the suggestion that he changed careers, viewing his job history as a natural evolution for someone whose mission in life is to care for people. At faith-based, nonprofit Baptist, patients get medical care as well as spiritual and behavioral health care -- "the whole person," he said.
When Greene became CEO, the Baptist system was only
The facility opened in 2005, a year after Citi Cards moved its 3,400 employees to a new development nearby and kicked off a population boom.
"That was the beginning," he said.
The system is the area's largest employer, with 11,000 on the payroll. Meanwhile, Greene has also been a community leader, serving as board chairman of the Sulzbacher center for the homeless and
"Baptist has thrived under Hugh's leadership, and to be honest we wish he would remain CEO for the next 20 years," Baptist Health board chairman
Greene won't take personal credit -- he had a supportive board, management team and community, he said -- but acknowledged that his long tenure helped keep Baptist stable.
"No one stays in health care in the same place for years and years. The average is three to four years," he said. "Continuity of leadership through the years has been a factor in our success."
CHAMPION FOR UNDERSERVED
As Baptist grew, Greene took on another cause -- health care for the working poor.
He was chairman of JaxCare, a low-cost health care plan marketed to small businesses that was launched in 2004. Supported by a coalition including hospitals and physicians, JaxCare was one of four "Health Flex plans" approved by the state's
Member premiums were designed to pay for the health plan's administrative costs, with treatment costs financed through a city grant and in-kind services from participating hospitals. But enrollment was far lower than projected -- largely due to restrictive eligibility requirements, according to the report. Cuts in city funding and rises in health care costs forced the group to shut down in 2008.
"It was a great experience ... [that] did not work," Greene said.
Meanwhile, We Care Jacksonville -- formed in 1993 -- had built a community partnership of health care professionals and volunteers who manned a primary care network. But patients needed hospital and specialty care as well.
"They couldn't get people into specialty care," he said.
Greene and Baptist helped establish a volunteer system of specialists, whose services also were free to We Care patients. All the city's hospitals are now members of the coalition and all medical specialties are represented.
"It's functioning really well," he said.
Also developed was a committee of hospital leaders, the
"In 2011 he brought together the other five CEOs of the
Even as he left the public stage, Greene maintained his advocacy for the uninsured. In a farewell column in the Times-Union, he urged the public to support the cause.
"Let us not forget that tens of thousands of individuals do not have health insurance or otherwise cannot afford health care other than through emergency rooms," he said. "While much progress has taken place with the commitment of organizations like Baptist and other outstanding nonprofits, our efforts to improve access is still fragmented and pieced together.
"We can do better! Everyone is our community deserves access to basic health care," he said.
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