By Sallie James
Nearly a year after Boca Raton Regional Hospital said it would merge with Baptist Health South Florida, the hospital has named its new chief executive officer: Lincoln S. Mendez, the former CEO of South Miami Hospital, a Baptist property.
Mendez will replace Jerry Fedele, president and CEO of Boca Regional Hospital, when Fedele retires in August. Fedele has served as CEO of the hospital for the past 11 years.
The two hospitals also announced they have signed an agreement regarding a strategic partnership between the two organizations, solidifying their plans for affiliation. In December 2018, Boca Raton Regional and Baptist Health South Florida agreed on a letter of intent for the partnership.
“We are excited about this significant step in the journey we embarked on in 2017. The agreement was enthusiastically endorsed by a unanimous vote of our board, and we are looking forward to continuing with Baptist Health on the path toward elevating the health care we provide for our communities,” Fedele said in a written statement. “Our organizations share similar cultures, values and expectations for excellence that are essential for a great partnership that is focused on increasing access to high quality care across South Florida.”
Boca Regional, at 800 Meadows Road, began discussions with Baptist more than a year ago with the hope of elevating the hospital’s position as an academic referral center in South Florida. Baptist, headquartered in Coral Gables, is the largest not-for-profit health care organization in the region, with 10 hospitals and more than 100 physician and outpatient locations from Palm Beach County to the Florida Keys.
Today, Boca Regional has grown into a regional treatment complex, with about 2,800 employees, 1,200 volunteers and approximately 800 doctors on staff.
The Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League has provided more than $31 million to the hospital since the league’s formation in 1962.
The beloved community hospital, once known as “The Miracle on Meadows Road,” was born out of tragedy in 1967. The poisoning deaths of two young children and the absence of a local medical center became the impetus for its founding. The town had about 10,000 residents and a group of volunteers with a mission.
Board member Pat Thomas, also past president of the Debbie-Rand Memorial Foundation, said Mendez will serve Boca Regional well.
“I am very excited. I think it’s going to be a great partnership for both of us,” Thomas said. “He has an outstanding résumé, he’s been in the hospital industry for several years and was recently a CEO at a Baptist Hospital in South Florida.”
She called the merger between the two hospitals a “good marriage” and said the hospital’s future looks bright.
She also commended Fedele on his years of dedicated service. “Jerry Fedele did wonderful things for our hospital and we owe him a mountain of gratitude,” Thomas said.
Mendez’s background is notable. During his tenure, South Miami Hospital earned national accolades for quality, innovation and clinical excellence, while experiencing significant growth in its facilities, technology and programs.
Christine E. Lynn, Boca Raton Regional Hospital Board chair, said that Mendez “provides the depth of experience and executive skill sets that are tailor-made to lead Boca Regional in its continued ascent to becoming one of the premier, tertiary academic medical centers in Florida.”
She also expressed confidence “in his ability to continue the most positive momentum and trajectory of our hospital that was established and sustained by Jerry Fedele.”
Joan Wargo, 89, who’s been volunteering at Boca Regional for more than 50 years, was delighted to hear of the progress.
“They have been working on this for a long, long time. They chose the CEO after many, many meetings. The people that were on the committee were all very satisfied. I have not met the man, but the people I know and trust and respect are very happy with him,” Wargo said. “We are looking forward to having him here.”
Brian E. Keeley, president and CEO of Baptist Health, said the collaboration between the two hospitals “reinforced our common vision for carrying out our mission of delivering compassionate, exceptional care to our patients and families.”
“Baptist Health has grown strategically in recent years to meet the needs of our communities, and (this) announcement brings us one step closer to completing our much-anticipated affiliation with Boca Raton Regional Hospital,” Keeley said. “With Lincoln’s leadership, we believe this partnership will be mutually beneficial to our respective organizations and, most of all, for the many people we serve across four counties.”