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Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan Health names new CEO

Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan Health announced Wednesday that a New Jersey hospital executive will be the system’s new CEO.

Ketul Patel, now a leader in the Hackensack University Health Network, will succeed Joe Wilczek, who announced his retirement early this year.

Patel’s job in Tacoma will be the same as Wilczek’s: chief executive of the local health network and a senior vice president in Franciscan’s parent company, Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives.

He will report to both a local board and to CHI, said Roy Brooks, chairman of the Franciscan board, on Wednesday.

Patel did not return a phone message seeking an interview. Local health system spokesman Scott Thompson said Patel did not plan to speak to local media until he starts working here in late February.

The search for Wilczek’s successor started in April, Brooks said. The selection committee vetted candidates, and they also used a Chicago-based head-hunting firm.

The short list of finalists was “about a dozen” candidates, he said. Some were local.

“All the candidates were qualified. So it gets down to things like presence,” Brooks said. “When Patel walked into a room, there was a quiet presence.”

Both that and Patel’s background in strategic planning were his top strengths, Brooks said.

“Today in health care, which is going through just tremendous changes and doesn’t look like it will slow down at all, you need to bring groups together,” he said. “In health care right now, you have to be large or you won’t survive.”

Details of Patel’s compensation package weren’t released Wednesday. According to state records, Wilczek’s total compensation in 2012 was roughly $1.4 million.

Patel’s current title is Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Operations Officer for the Hackensack University Health Network and its University Medical Center. That system employs about 11,300 people. Franciscan reports it has about 12,440 employees, about 5,400 of whom are in Pierce County. It is the county’s second-largest private employer, behind MultiCare Health Systems.

Patel’s previous work experience includes several health systems around the country, according to a news release. He’s been at Hackensack since 2010. Before that he was an executive with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Magee-Women’s Hospital, Franciscan Health Alliance St. James Health in Chicago, and Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.

He has a master’s degree in health administration and business administration from the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his bachelor’s from The John Hopkins University.

In Tacoma, he will be one of seven senior vice presidents for CHI, overseeing the Pacific Northwest Division. That includes CHI Franciscan Health and two CHI facilities in Oregon — CHI Mercy Health, a 174-bed medical center located in Roseburg; and CHI St. Anthony Hospital, a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital in Pendleton.

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