One of his first jobs while in high school was at Kent Hospital; now Dr. Michael J. Dacey will soon be president and chief operating officer of the institution, succeeding Sandra Coletta. In a senior management reorganization announced earlier this week by Dennis D. Keefe, president and CEO of Care New England, Coletta will take on the job of CNE chief operating officer as of July 1.
Monday morning, Coletta and Dacey outlined the challenges they foresee for their respective new roles and, as it turned out, poked fun at one another as only co-workers can do.
Coletta expects to leave the Kent campus by the end of August. She believes the transition will be seamless.
"He’s been so engaged and involved, it should be a smooth process," said Coletta. “Mike Dacey has his fingerprints all over.”
Dacey, who was chief medical officer at Kent and is now Care New England’s chief clinical integration officer, has been intimately involved with Coletta’s initiatives, including the planning for and construction of the ambulatory surgery center, the redesign of the emergency department, expansion of its cardiovascular services, made possible through a clinical affiliation with Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, and the recent application to the state to perform both emergency and elective coronary angioplasty procedures.
But it’s not going to be all the same.
“The fish are leaving, the vision isn’t,” he said toward the end of the interview. His reference was to the giant fresh water aquarium that is the signature piece of Coletta’s office.
Coincidentally, fish may have played a more significant role in Dacey’s career than apparent from his resume of academic, medical and administrative accomplishments.
As he tells it, Dacey was 15 and a student at Hendricken. He would be at the school’s senior campus, which at that time was at the Aldrich estate on Warwick Neck and he wanted a car.
Dacey landed a night job at the Crow’s Nest on Arnold’s Neck, and to get it he told them he was 16. To explain his late evenings, he told his parents he was at the library and studying with friends, but the smell of fish that permeated his clothes gave him away. He confessed to his father, Michael Dacey, where he was working. His father, who was head of human resources at the hospital, got him a job as an emergency room patient transporter. It put him on a medical track.
As a student at Providence College, Dacey worked in the hospital’s pharmacy department. He went on to earn his medical degree at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and complete an internal medicine residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He also completed a critical care medicine fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and holds a Masters in Science in Health Care Management from the Harvard School of Public Health.
He returned to Kent Hospital in 2000.
Coletta came to Kent from Miriam Hospital six years ago, during a period that she describes as unsure and facing financial crisis. While she didn’t bring it up during the interview, at the time, Kent was also faced with a highly visible malpractice suit brought by actor James Woods over the death of his brother, Michael. Michael died of a heart attack in the corridor of the hospital emergency room. After the trial started, Coletta met with Woods, apologized for the hospital’s failure in responding to his brother’s emergency and reached a settlement that, among other things, created the Michael J. Woods Patient Safety Institute. The redesign of the emergency department is an outcome of the institute’s work.
Asked how Kent has changed, Coletta said there’s energy and hope at the institution that wasn’t there when she arrived. “People know we’re moving,” she said.
She acknowledges that finances continue to be an issue, but she doesn’t put them in terms of a crisis.
“It’s always about managing limited resources to provide the best possible care we can,” she said.
To that, Dacey adds, “We’ve got the people working better together in a way that benefits the patient.”
Dacey is also an avid supporter of Kent’s role as a teaching hospital. He observes that the number of residencies has grown in the last year, adding that medical students make better doctors because of the questions they ask and the directions they seek. Coletta said the program is beginning to work in increasing the pool of local general practitioners. They both laugh, citing the numbers of residents who have married and plan to stay in Rhode Island.
Dacey’s vision for Kent reaches beyond its walls.
“The hospital helps keep people healthy,” he said. Dacey played a lead in highlighting the alarming increase in community drug overdose deaths long before the trend gained statewide visibility.
Bringing awareness to health issues is part of it. Dacey said it is also about building community partnerships. As an example, he cites the hospital’s relationship with Thundermist Health Center in West Warwick. He mentions the hospital’s recent A rating in patient safety as determined by the Leapfrog Group, an independent industry watchdog, as evidenced of the strong foundation he hopes to build upon. Looking ahead, he sees development of robotics and, with state approval, the performance of coronary angioplasties.
Coletta mentions how Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket is now a part of CNE.
She said CNE is not a confederation of independent units and that she looks to working with all facilities in determining where best to locate and provide services and operate CNE as an integrated unit.
In other senior appointments, Keefe announced that Patricia Recupero, MD, JD, will serve as Care New England senior vice president for education and training; Edward Schottland will serve as Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island president and COO; and Dr. Larry Price will serve as Butler Hospital acting president and COO.
“Our goal at Care New England is to work toward continuous improvement in quality, patient safety, care integration and coordination, and the patient experience of care, as well as improved cost effectiveness,” Keefe said in a statement. “With these new appointments – and the entirety of the Care New England senior leadership team – I am confident that we are poised for great success as we continue to transform the future of health care for our community.”