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A health-care administrator from Ohio will become the first president and chief executive officer of the new Catholic Health System.

Dale S. St. Arnold, president and chief executive officer of the Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus, Ohio, since 1992, will assume the new position in Buffalo on Feb. 1.

As head of the Catholic Health System here, St. Arnold will be responsible for nearly 100 local health and health-related services, including seven hospitals, 1,500 physicians and more than 12,000 nursing and support staff.

The new Catholic Health System here serves more than a quarter of a million people a year.

"Health care is in the process of dramatic reformation in this country," St. Arnold, 43, said by phone Monday from Columbus, where he had just given notice as head of the Mount Carmel system, effective Jan. 16.

The Catholic Health System's 42 entities include Mercy and Sisters hospitals in Buffalo, Kenmore Mercy Hospital in the Town of Tonawanda, Our Lady of Victory Hospital in Lackawanna and St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga.

St. Arnold, 43, also has served as acting chief executive officer and as executive vice president of the Mount Carmel Health System; chief operating officer at Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus; and president and chief operating officer of St. Benedict's Hospital in Ogden, Utah.

Citing health-care changes on federal and state levels and "a blossoming in the commercial area, along with new technology, new drugs and new techniques," St. Arnold noted that he has always been affiliated with Catholic health care.

"What is so attractive about Catholic health care is that it focuses on the care of the patient," he said, describing a long-term goal of making the Catholic Health System here "one of the finest integrated health-care delivery systems in the United States."

His immediate goal, he added, is "to understand the depth and breadth of the new organization, then get a strategic plan in place so we can best serve the community, drawing on all those exquisite resources in the system."

St. Arnold, a native of Big Rapids, Mich., was chosen for the top administrative job from among more than 25 applicants during a six-month national search, said Joseph J. Castiglia, chairman of the system's board of directors.

"We are indeed fortunate to have someone with Mr. St. Arnold's extraordinary talent and track record come to Western New York and take the helm of the Catholic Health System," Castiglia said.

"His experience with Mount Carmel Health System will be invaluable in strategically positioning the Catholic Health System as a leader in health care, both locally and nationally."

At Mount Carmel -- which includes central Ohio's largest home health-care organization, medical ground transportation and hospice services -- he has been in charge of more than 20 health services, including three acute-care hospitals, 2,000 physicians and 6,300 employees.

Kerry Garrigan, senior vice president for system human affairs with the Mount Carmel system, said St. Arnold's move to the Buffalo area "is a tremendous loss to us."

She joined Mount Carmel, she said, "because of (St. Arnold's) vision, integrity and belief in the mission of Catholic health care."

"He's tough but kind," she added. "He's not your typical CEO. He doesn't see himself as different from anyone else -- and that's a gift."

St. Arnold, a 1976 graduate of Pennsylvania State University, holds master's degrees in business and health administration from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

In addition to a number of board positions in the Mount Carmel organization, he is currently a board member of both Bank One of Ohio and the Columbus Center of Science and Industry.

It also includes Genesee Mercy Healthcare, the organization formed by the consolidation of St. Jerome and Genesee Memorial hospitals in Batavia. In addition, the system is affiliated with the Health System of Niagara, a network consisting of Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

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