The Erie County Medical Center board of directors sought stability in naming a permanent CEO on Tuesday instead of launching a national search to fill the position.
The board named Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., who had filled the job on an acting basis since November, without interviewing any other candidates.
But board members, hospital staff and health care executives said that Tuesday’s appointment is a recognition of Quatroche’s steady performance leading the hospital, his deep connections inside and outside ECMC and a desire to move past the conflicts of the last 2½ months that began when the board abruptly fired Quatroche’s predecessor, Richard C. Cleland.
“I think that having the collaborator in the seat is very good. Tom talks to everybody, and everybody feels comfortable talking to Tom,” Sharon L. Hanson, board chairwoman, said after the vote.
The board voted to appoint Quatroche, 46, as CEO at its annual reorganizational meeting, following a lengthy discussion in executive session, after opting not to conduct a search to consider other candidates for the position. The board did decide Tuesday to launch a national search to fill the position of chief operating officer, which has been vacant since Mary Laski Hoffman resigned on the same day in November that Cleland was fired.
Quatroche’s appointment may settle a period of unease for ECMC that began when then-CEO Jody L. Lomeo left in April 2014 to take over as president and CEO of Kaleida Health and its parent, Great Lakes Health System. Cleland succeeded Lomeo on an interim basis in April 2014 and, in May, with permanent status before his ouster in November. The board initially voted to fire Cleland before later settling with him for $1.2 million, the amount he was owed on the last two years of his employment contract.
“They need calm waters now at ECMC,” John E. Bartimole, president of the Western New York Healthcare Association, which represents many hospitals in the region, said in an interview prior to the board meeting.
The board’s action was expected in many segments of the business, political and health care communities, given the strong relationships Quatroche has built within ECMC and in the community during his long tenure at the hospital. The former Hamburg Town Board member served for 10 years as senior vice president for marketing, planning and business development before his appointment last May as ECMC’s president.
“I think Tom’s a good guy, we’ve had a good working relationship,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said before the board meeting, but he did say that a search could be done quickly, and questioned the need to rush into any appointment. Poloncarz also said he has unanswered questions about how the board handled the Cleland situation.
Quatroche had settled in to the acting CEO’s job since early November, conducting town hall-style meetings with employees, directing planning for a new emergency room and writing up a detailed “CEO’s Introduction” letter to the board. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the institution to move forward,” Quatroche said in a brief interview after Tuesday’s meeting, saying he was honored and humbled by the appointment.
In comments Tuesday prior to naming Quatroche as permanent CEO, more than one board member lauded the hospital’s strong financial performance, despite its standing as a public hospital that primarily serves poor cases, and its growth in inpatient and outpatient procedures over the past five years.
Dr. Samuel D. Cloud, president of the ECMC medical staff, said hospital physicians fully supported Quatroche’s appointment. ECMC officials said they could not immediately release information on Quatroche’s pay as CEO.