MaineHealth’s two top executives, CEO William Caron Jr. and President Richard Petersen, announced Wednesday that they plan to retire soon and that a nationwide search for their replacements would commence immediately.

Caron, 66, said he plans to retire at the end of 2020, while Petersen, 63, said he would stay on through June 30, 2021. Both executives expressed pride in their accomplishments at Maine’s largest integrated health care system, but said new perspectives are needed to move the organization forward.

Caron, who became CEO of MaineHealth in 2000, said he will leave his successor with a solid foundation that includes strong clinical leadership, a recently completed system-wide integration and a number of successful health and wellness programs that have become models for the nation.

“It’s time for a transition,” he said. “I’m ready to retire.”

Petersen served for many years as the president and CEO of MaineHealth’s flagship hospital, Maine Medical Center in Portland, until his role shifted in January to CEO of the hospital and president of MaineHealth. He said the decision to retire six months after Caron would allow MaineHealth to avoid having to replace its two most senior executives simultaneously.

Both Caron and Petersen said they are excited to see what new leadership can do to further advance the organization’s mission to expand access to quality, affordable health care in Maine while increasing its focus on community-based preventive care.

“Life is a relay race,” Petersen said. “There is always a time to hand off the baton.”

Bill Burke, chairman of MaineHealth’s board of trustees, said the board has formed an executive search committee to find replacements for Caron and Petersen, led by board member George Isaacson, an attorney and former chairman of the MaineHealth board. The search committee will include physicians and other experts from the board in areas such as human resources, finance and business, he said.

“We are about to begin a very thorough search process,” Burke said, adding that finding replacements for top-level executives usually takes seven to nine months.

A PERIOD OF CHANGE
Caron and Petersen have led MaineHealth through a period of major consolidation and expansion as the health care system has sought to remain competitive and relevant in a difficult and rapidly changing environment for health care. Rural health care in particular is under threat in Maine and other areas of the country because of financial pressures stemming in part from shifting more expensive services once performed at smaller hospitals to large, regional medical centers. Rural areas in Maine also face a declining and aging population.

A rendering of the east tower addition planned for Maine Medical Center. Courtesy MaineHealth

The MaineHealth system is Maine’s largest employer and has roughly 19,000 total employees working at community hospitals in a dozen counties in Maine and New Hampshire. In October 2018, MaineHealth completed a process to merge all of its systems, unifying hospital budgets under one umbrella organization and creating a more centralized health care system.

Maine Medical Center, the nonprofit health care system’s largest hospital, in late 2018 completed the planning phase of a five-year, $534 million expansion and modernization initiative that will increase the hospital’s capacity in Portland with a new staff parking garage, a three-level expansion to its visitor parking garage, a two-story addition to the hospital’s east tower and a new six-story medical building.

In March, the hospital announced plans to construct a $59 million medical office building on its Scarborough campus that would house neurological and other specialty services.

“Our organization and the 1.1 million people in our service area in Maine and Carroll County, New Hampshire, have been incredibly fortunate to have leaders of such skill and vision,” Burke said. “Replacing them won’t be easy, but we are confident that the opportunity to lead such a dynamic health care organization, with a talented team and a culture of excellence, will attract a top-notch pool of applicants.”

According to its most recently completed audited financial statement, MaineHealth had a financial gain from operations of $67.9 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, on net revenues of $2.5 billion. For the 2018 fiscal year, MaineHealth had net assets of $1.7 billion.

Caron’s total compensation for the fiscal year was about $1.3 million, while as president and CEO of Maine Medical Center, Petersen also received total compensation of about $1.3 million.


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