Harborview Medical Center director resigns

SEATTLE — The executive director of the region’s top trauma hospital, Harborview Medical Center, has abruptly resigned.

Eileen Whalen’s departure was announced Friday in a memo to staff at the Seattle hospital, The Seattle Times reported. Whalen is a noted trauma-services expert who had been executive director since 2008.

Harborview is the only top-level adult and pediatric trauma center in Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

Whalen’s resignation followed several months of controversy after Harborview officials acknowledged in December that they were considering a plan to disperse hospital primary-care clinics into the community. Former hospital leaders opposed the plan, and six members of the King County Council responded with a letter of concern. Critics of the plan have said it could hurt patients with complex problems who need medical care from several different providers.

Harborview is owned by King County.

Johnese Spisso, chief health system officer for University of Washington Medicine, will assume Whalen’s responsibilities until a new executive director is named. The Times reported that Whalen directed calls to her lawyer, who was not immediately available for comment.

Whalen has “led the organization to many accomplishments,” including advancing the quality and safety of patient care, Spisso said in the memo announcing the departure.

Whalen’s resignation is the second abrupt departure for a Harborview executive director in the last decade. Chief Executive David Jaffe, 58, retired suddenly in 2007, surprising his boss, Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine.

Whalen will work with her office for the next six months on “special projects,” Spisso said. Hospital spokeswoman Tina Mankowski said Whalen “has left the university” and that a nationwide search for her replacement would begin within about a month.

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