Tenet ( THC) just lost its CFO -- to a consulting job.

The Dallas-based hospital company announced late Thursday that finance chief Robert Shapard is leaving his post after just seven months on the job. Shapard's departure comes during a shake-up of the company's finance branch and a detailed audit of past financial results. His exit will become official early next month, when the company is expected to report yet another quarterly loss.

Shapard says he is looking to return to the utility industry. He has accepted a position as a strategic adviser at TXU ( TXU), where he worked before joining Tenet.

"TXU presented an opportunity I could not pass up to return to the industry where I have spent most of my career," Shapard said in a prepared statement on Thursday. "I will leave feeling confident that (Tenet) is on the right track for sustainable future growth."

But Caymus Partners analyst Jeff Villwock senses real trouble on the way.

"CFOs just don't up and resign without some pretty good reasons," says Villwock, who conducts research on behalf of the Tenet Shareholder Committee, a group long critical of management. "This company is in deep, deep trouble. ... And the day of reckoning is coming -- maybe even faster than we thought."

Tenet has now spent three years in a failed effort to turn around the company and resolve a number of government investigations. The company hired Shapard with the expectation that he would play a key role in its financial recovery. Instead, Shapard has decided to rejoin his former employer -- without taking a full-time role there.

"He's leaving to be a consultant? Give me a break," Villwock says. "Either things were misrepresented to him during the interviewing process or perhaps he just knows something that we don't. ... But he's said, 'Life's too short. I'm out of here.'"

In the meantime, Tenet has named Timothy Pullen -- its chief accounting officer -- as interim CFO while it searches for a permanent replacement. Villwock, for one, believes that the company will now find it "impossible" to hire a good outsider for that post.

The company has replaced its departing treasurer -- who left in May -- with an insider already. It has also promoted insiders to serve as regional CFOs.

The company's stock fell 2% to $9.76 on Thursday, closing below the $10 mark for the sixth day in a row.

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