The Willis-Knighton Health System will undergo a major leadership shake-up.

A week after doctors signs a letter asking for CEO James Elrod to step down, Elrod announces he will retire, but on his own terms. The Executive Vice President is also resigning.

80-year-old, Elrod said he will retire after he finds the CEO candidate to train under him. Elrod released a statement Thursday morning addressed to Willis-Knighton staff saying in part,  “This sucession plan will involve a nationwide search for a Senior Executive who join our team, learn our systems, our values and community, and become the lead candidate for Chief Executive Officer upon my retirement.” It also said he wants staff input and anticipates the debate and discussions to continue.

Elrod has been the CEO of Willis-Knighton for more than 50 years.
One week ago, Willis-Knighton doctors sent the Board of Trustees a letter of “No Confidence” in Elrod, asking he be fired or resign. They cited recent layoffs and inability to adapt to changing health care as some of the reasons. The board voted to keep Elrod in place.
Only a few hours after Elrod released his statement, Willis-Knighton’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Charles Daigle, announces he will resign. In a letter sent by his attorney, it said “The environment of medicine and health care is presently in great flux. I sought to meet these demands of change. Unfortunately, change is difficult to achieve within a large institution. Change, however, was and remains necessary.”

There’s no word yet on who will be replacing Daigle and Elrod has not said when exactly he plans to retire.

You can read Elrod’s letter below:

Dear Willis-Knighton Medical Staff:
As you all know, we’ve been in the news a lot lately. We have heard open and passionate debate about the future of Willis-Knighton and the best ways to extend our proud legacy of healthcare service in northwestern Louisiana.
There has also been a lot of misinformation circulating, and I’d like to clear up some issues.
First, debate and disagreement is healthy when it is honest and respectful. It means that people feel strongly about the importance of our healthcare system and its role in our community. I have profound respect for the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and caregivers who give so much of their lives to save and enhance the lives of others. We all believe in the same mission – doing what is best and right for our patients and our community.
To be clear, Willis-Knighton has and will continue to have the best doctors and nurses on staff, and the best medical facilities in northwestern Louisiana. We have a solid and stable future ahead. Our ongoing goal is to listen and engage in constructive dialogue with our doctors, staff and patients, and to collectively do what is best for each of them.
I am very proud of what has been accomplished by our team during my tenure at Willis-Knighton. But I, too, am focused on our future in the ever-changing healthcare services world. Therefore, in order to ensure a seamless and orderly leadership transition in the coming years, the Board of Trustees and I are determined to continue development of a succession plan.
This succession plan will involve a nationwide search for a senior executive who will join our team, learn our systems, our values and our community, and become the lead candidate for chief executive officer upon my retirement. As we embark on that process, I am counting on your valuable input and will be soliciting your views.
Because of the leadership role Willis-Knighton plays in our community, and our steadfast commitment to safeguarding the welfare of our patients, finding the right CEO candidate – one who can successfully align the needs and interests of our doctors, staff, facilities and community and who is willing to work collaboratively with me and with you to do so – is a responsibility of the utmost importance.
As we work towards this transition, debate and discussion will continue, and we will listen to many voices. But it is important to remember at all times that our common bond and dedication to our mission is stronger than our differences. As we move forward, it is critical for all of us at WKHS to come together and to remain focused on our mission – doing what is best and right for our patients and our community and continuing to provide high-quality healthcare across our system.
Willis-Knighton has been my life’s work, and our successes as a team have brought immeasurable joy and satisfaction. I have been blessed to work alongside many of the finest physicians and healthcare providers in the United States. Over and over again, you have told me how you have passed on opportunities to practice in what others may characterize as bigger cities. You recognized, like me, that there is something special about this community, and something special about Willis-Knighton. Together, we have built the best overall healthcare system in Louisiana, and a leader in healthcare nationally. I hope you will join me in enthusiastically supporting our transition to bold new leadership that will take WKHS to even further heights as we approach our next century of service.
Thank you for all you have done for Willis-Knighton and for your continued dedication during this process.
With sincere regards,
James K. Elrod
President & CEO

You can read Charles “Chuck” Daigle resignation statement below:

Statement By Charles D. “Chuck” Daigle announcing his resignation as Executive Vice-
President and Chief Operating Office of the Willis-Knighton Health System
“Today, as I announce my resignation from my job with the Willis-Knighton Health
System, I reflect with pride on the accomplishments which have been made and with
humility on the extraordinary staff and medical professionals I was fortunate to work
with to achieve them. It was a team effort.
“My role at WKHS was to stand for decisions that were always in the best interest of the
health system and its patients as well as ensuring the employees and physicians had a
voice in decision making of the organization. This I did.
“The environment of medicine and health care is presently in great flux. I sought to meet
these demands of change. Unfortunately, change is always difficult to achieve within a
large institution. Change, however, was and remains necessary.
“The current situation is not about personalities. Moreover, I will not allow it to be about
personalities. It has been about the doctors, medical professionals and staff, and, most of
all, the patients and their care. It must never be about anything else.
“I am appreciative of the opportunity to serve this community and those who seek care.
I look forward to continuing my work to improve the quality of health care and
facilitating collaboration among doctors, hospitals and other providers throughout our
“I wish to express my thanks to every person who I have served in the Willis-Knighton
Health System over the past decade.”