Dignity Health Central Coast President and CEO Chuck Cova will step down as the leader of the biggest hospital chain in the region, Dignity Health announced Dec. 30.
His retirement comes after a 38-year career with Dignity Health. Cova was the president and CEO of Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria in 2004 when he led the acquisition of French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital into what was then known as Catholic Healthcare West and is now Dignity Health. The nonprofit hospital chain expanded into Ventura County a decade later.
Under Cova’s leadership, both French Hospital and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital emerged from bankruptcy, and were able to re-introduce some programs, like French Hospital’s cardiac program, as well as start new ones, like the maternal-child health program at French Hospital and the Acute Rehabilitation Center at Arroyo Grande.
Cova was also largely responsible for the new 191-bed Marian Regional Medical Center building, which cost $218 million. He helped plan and develop the both the Pacific Central Coast Health Centers, which now includes 45 centers and 190 physicians associated with the centers, and Mission Hope Cancer Center, which was the region’s first fully integrated cancer center and remains one of three accredited comprehensive community cancer programs between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Ventura County became part of the Dignity Health Central Coast service area through Cova’s efforts. In 2014, the hospital chain picked up both St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital and St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. Both hospitals had significant projects undertaken after they were brought into the fold; St. John’s Pleasant Valley saw an $80 million patient tower expansion, while St. John’s Regional Medical Center underwent a $30 million modernization.
Cova also worked with Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria to establish the registered nurse program there, which created new employment opportunities for people living in the area and helped reduce the nursing shortage in the area. Cova also helped create the Family Medicine and OB-GYN residencies at Marian Regional, and worked with other colleges and universities, including Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cuesta College, USC, Western University and Stanford.