Fletcher Allen names Estes as new CEO

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(Host) Trustees of Fletcher Allen Health Care have picked a Florida physician and veteran health care administrator to lead the Burlington hospital. Doctor Melinda Estes will be the hospital’s new chief executive.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Louise McCarren) “Today is a very, very happy day for us at Fletcher Allen.” (McCarren laughs.) “This is a lot easier than some of the other times since I’ve started in this.”

(Dillon) Hospital trustee chairwoman Louise McCarren was all smiles as she announced the selection of Doctor Melinda Estes as the new CEO.

McCarren has led the trustees through a rocky year. The hospital has tried to recover from a financial scandal that was triggered when former CEO William Boettcher allegedly misled the state about the true cost of the $356 million renovation project.

She says Estes is the right person to lead Fletcher Allen is it continues to rebuild trust with regulators and the community.

(McCarren) “Her interpersonal style is to listen and communicate. She is visible with employees, patients and the community. She is also a marathon runner, and we have told her that the endurance and determination need for marathon running may come in handy here at Fletcher Allen.”

(Dillon) Trustees had narrowed their search to two finalists: Estes, and Kenneth Bloom, a Washington consultant with over 30 years of senior hospital management experience.

Trustees unanimously voted for Estes. Members of the search committee say they were impressed by her dedication to patient care. Jeanne Keller served on the search committee.

(Keller) “One thing about Doctor Estes that I frankly was just amazed at is that she holds town meetings for her employees in her Cleveland Clinic Florida facilities. Open session on her. Any employee can come and ask any question.”

(Dillon) Estes will get paid $625,000 thousand a year, and the hospital will also contribute up to $75,000 annually to her retirement benefits. Hospital officials say the salary is at the median of what comparable institutions pay. Her predecessor, William Boettcher, earned a base salary of $525,000.

Estes will come into an institution that is struggling financially. The hospital lost money in the third quarter of the fiscal year, but outgoing CEO Ed Colodny says the hospital should have a profitable fourth quarter. Colodny says the problems at Fletcher Allen are similar to those that face all major health care institutions.

(Colodny) “Inadequate reimbursements from government pay programs, Medicaid and Medicare in particular, and the ever-increasing demand for improved health care from our citizens. We have a dichotomy in this society. We want more care and less pay for it.”

(Dillon) Estes has to wrap up her obligations at the Cleveland Clinic before she takes the Vermont job. Hospital officials say she’ll begin work sometime this fall.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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