By: Dale King Contributing Writer
At 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2019, Boca Raton Regional Hospital began operating as a certified partner of Baptist Health South Florida.
Lincoln S. Mendez, who takes over as chief executive officer of Boca Hospital this month when current CEO Jerry Fedele retires, was standing on the BRRH campus when the clock struck a minute after midnight.
Later that day, at 10 a.m., officials from the two nonprofit healthcare organizations gathered with dozens of BRRH employees wearing t-shirts bearing the names of both institutions to announce the completion of the long-awaited partnership.
So, for the first time in its 52-year history, Boca Hospital was functioning in tandem with another medical facility. The partnership – three years in the making and seven months since it was announced – ensures that both healthcare providers will be able to continue carrying out their mutual missions across four South Florida counties.
“Our groups share the same calling to improve the health and well-being of individuals and to deliver compassionate healthcare to our patients at the highest standards of excellence and safety,” said Brian E. Keeley, president and CEO of Baptist Health.
“We foresee an exciting future at Boca Raton Regional Hospital that will cement its title as the preeminent healthcare provider in the community.”
That future will be carried out with all employees on board. Adriene McCoy, chief human resources officer for Baptist Health South, said there will be “no immediate changes” in staffing at Boca Regional. “Everybody is good,” she said. “Baptist puts people first.”
BRRH and Baptist South signed a letter of intent to merge seven months ago. Boca Regional had by that time conducted a nearly two-year search for a strategic health system partner and chose Baptist Health from a list of five competitors pared down from an initial list of 12 hopefuls.
“Today’s announcement concludes a process that will elevate our position as an advanced, tertiary academic center,” said Christine E. Lynn, board chair at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “I thank everyone who participated in this process, both at Boca Regional and Baptist Health, for this exciting outcome.”
Outgoing CEO Fedele, who delayed his planned August 2018 retirement a year to help complete the merger of the two facilities and to initiate a quarter-billion dollar hospital expansion and renovation program, took his last turn at the microphone.
He and others recalled the arrival of Fedele and his team of hospital rescuers at BRRH 11 years. They immediately set to work to save the medical center that was hemorrhaging money badly. The hospital racked up a $120 million loss during one year alone.
Fedele admitted at the joining ceremony that, “Digging out of a financial challenge 11 years ago” was less a personal thing and more the result of “great board leadership.”
He commented that “the agreement [with Baptist South] was enthusiastically endorsed by a unanimous vote of our board, and we are looking forward to continuing with Baptist South on the path toward elevating the healthcare we provide for our communities.”
“Our organizations share similar cultures, values and expectations for excellence that are essential for a great partnership that is focused on increasing access to high-quality care across South Florida,” he added.
Mendez, a seasoned and accomplished healthcare executive, also addressed the crowd. A Palm Beach County resident, he comes to his new position after serving as chief executive officer at South Miami Hospital, also part of the Baptist Health system. During his tenure, South Miami Hospital earned national accolades for its quality, innovation and clinical excellence.
He said he appreciated being “closer to home” as CEO of Boca Regional.
Mendez is also well-respected by board members, physicians, employees and his peers. “Mr. Mendez provides the depth of experience and executive skill sets that are tailor-made to lead Boca Regional in its continued ascent to becoming one of the premier, tertiary academic medical centers in Florida,” said Lynn
In 2017, Baptist Health South merged with Bethesda Hospital East and Bethesda Hospital West in Boynton Beach. With the addition of Boca Raton Regional Hospital, the number of Baptist Health hospitals increases to 11 – with a total staff of some 23,000.