Dr. Michael Dacey departing Kent Hospital in January

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He grew up in Warwick, knows the community and is known by the community. He earned his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine; did his medical residency at Walter Reed Medical Center and worked at a multi-disciplinary critical care training program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Seventeen years ago Dr. Michael Dacey came home to work where his father, also Michael, was the director of human relations at Kent Hospital.

Dr. Dacey took on one of the most medically challenging jobs at the hospital as director of the Intensive Care Unit. About 1,100 patients are admitted to Kent’s ICU annually.

But Dr. Dacey didn’t stay in the ICU. His administrative abilities and his knowledge of the Kent culture and its people were recognized by his superiors at Care New England. He was named chief medical officer and then integration officer for CNE. About five years ago he became president and COO at Kent.

Less than two months ago, a head hunting firm informed Dr. Dacey of an opening as director of a hospital group in Virginia, Dr. Dacey thought about returning to a part of the country he knew from his Army service and the opportunity the job offered. He applied.

By late next month a man who oversaw major medical advancements at Kent, including development of what have become a robust teaching hospital and a coronary angioplasty program that is now performing emergency procedures, will have left Kent.

He will fill the new position of Executive Vice President of Riverside Healthcare System based in Newport News, Va. In his role, a combination of system chief operating officer and chief clinical officer, Dacey will report to the CEO. Riverside is a system of seven hospitals with more than 600 physicians and 10,000 employees. The system is bigger than CNE and smaller than Lifespan.

“It’s just time for a change,” Dacey said in an interview Monday. 

That’s not how some see Dacey’s departure. Coming on the heels of Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Spinale’s departure to Syracuse, where he is chief medical officer of the St. Joseph Medical System, and the retirement of CNE president and CEO Dennis Keefe this month - not to mention the losses CNE has suffered in operating Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket - there’s fear among some employees that Kent is losing its community identity.

There’s also concern that it will be saddled with the debts of the larger entity. Dacey allayed concerns that Kent is in financial trouble and dismissed any suggestion he is bailing out.

“We did well the last several months, but if we don’t keep an eye on expenses and the competitive landscape changes, things can change dramatically and quickly,” he said. “That’s a lesson we learned from Memorial. You try to not lose touch with the community and the doctors that refer you from the community.”

Dacey said Kent has made money for the last three months and that he expects Kent will end the fiscal year with a surplus of $4 million to $5 million, which is 1.5 percent of its $360 million budget.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but given the scale and the size of the organization, it’s very thin and things can change quickly,” he said.

But there’s more to finance towards the health of a hospital. Dacey is keen on Kent and its people. He said he would never forget how hard people work at Kent.

“They’re very invested in these patients and they really want to do the best thing for the patients. They’re very dedicated - the nurses, the doctors, the staff, everybody,” he said. “You don’t see that in every hospital and you don’t see that in every hospital in Rhode Island. If you ask me what I’m most proud of, or happy about, it’s the ability to work with people taking care of patients.”

Looking back, Dacey remarked that Kent didn’t have any medical education in 2000 and now with the closing of Memorial its medical education programs both internal medicine and family medicine will be moving to Kent.

“Kent has grown its own programs that are actually larger than the ones at Memorial. So Kent is going to have at any one given time 140, 150 residents in internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine…That’s a very sizable teaching hospital by anybody’s standards.” He said the closing of inpatient service at Memorial, which he said is losing about $3 million a month, would help CNE financially.

Dacey is also upbeat about discussions with Partners HealthCare and its acquisition of CNE. He talks about the affiliation that has developed between Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Partners hospital, for cardiac care. He said Kent is in a good position going forward, which he credits to the staff.

“These are local people who really did good,” he said. He called Partners, “one of the highest regarded health systems in the world.”

He said discussions with Partners is going very well and things are moving in the right direction. 

Dacey expects a definitive agreement with Partners within the next two months with regulatory approvals extending into the summer.

If the future is so bright at Kent and for CNE, why leave? 

Dacey calls the job a “new challenge and a different opportunity.” He will be keeping his house in Warwick. 

“You never know what happens down the road,” he said.

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