Care New England CEO Keefe to retire

Care New England President and CEO Dennis Keefe speaks during an interview on myRITV's Executive Suite in 2015.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Care New England President and CEO Dennis Keefe announced Monday he will retire at the end of this year, as the company is working to consummate a merger with Partners HealthCare of Massachusetts.

Keefe, who has led the Women & Infants Hospital parent company since 2011, said he will remain as a consultant to Care New England for one year following his retirement to help with the transition. Dr. James Fanale, the company’s chief clinical officer and chief operating officer, will serve as interim president and CEO starting Jan. 1.

“Despite our challenges and recent difficulties, I remain confident in a future of sustained financial stability for Care New England,” Keefe, who turned 68 on Sunday, said in a statement. He expressed appreciation for “the dedication and commitment displayed by everyone at this institution focusing on our mission of caring and healing.”

“This is certainly a trying time in health care, but Dennis has brought his extensive experience and knowledge to this organization to help position us for the future despite many challenges and a rapidly changing landscape,” added Charles Reppucci, chairman of the board at Care New England.

In an email to staff members, Keefe said he and the board had agreed almost a year ago that this would be his last year as CEO. He said he hopes to spend more time with his “very patient” wife, Laura, and their 13 family members.

Keefe has led Care New England during a tumultuous time in Rhode Island health care, amid the implementation of President Obama’s health law, major changes in local hospital ownership and ongoing cost pressure. Care New England is on track to lose $61 million in its current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, though executives have said its financial challenges are easing.

In a bid to stabilize the company and its hospitals, Keefe struck a deal last year for Care New England to merge with Southcoast Health of New Bedford, only to see that transaction fall apart within months. Earlier this year he announced a second attempt, this time agreeing to sell money-losing Memorial Hospital to Prime Healthcare and merge the rest of Care New England’s hospitals with Partners. Both transactions are still pending.

Keefe has also had a fairly high profile in government. In 2015, he co-chaired Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Working Group to Reinvent Medicaid, which offered a variety of recommendations to rein in spending on the multibillion-dollar program. He is also co-chair of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s nonprofit working group.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook