Norm Deschene, a highly respected Massachusetts health care leader for more than 30 years, announced today that he plans to retire from his position as Wellforce CEO at the end of this year. Deschene led Lowell General Hospital as COO and CEO for 31 years and was instrumental in the founding of Wellforce, serving as CEO since its 2014 inception.
“In 2013, I was on the board of Tufts Medical Center and Norm invited me to breakfast. He told me that day, ‘I have an idea for how we can change health care in Massachusetts for the better,’” said Ellen Zane, Chair of the Wellforce Board of Trustees.
“Norm’s vision was to bring community and academic medicine together in a model that respected both equally. He knew this type of system would prioritize the patient and offer care when and where the patient needed it, not drive everything into Boston. A year later he delivered on his vision, bringing together Tufts Medical Center and Circle Health to form the new health system Wellforce.”
Under Deschene’s leadership Wellforce has successfully integrated academic medicine into its members’ communities, including programs in cancer, neurosurgery, pediatrics, cardiovascular and intensive care. The Wellforce system has helped its members control the cost of health care and become fiscally stronger. Together the organizations have saved more than $50 million through operating synergies.
Deschene spearheaded the expansion of the system in 2017 and 2018 with new members MelroseWakefield Healthcare and Home Health Foundation respectively. He recently helped to recruit exceptional talent to lead Tufts Medical Center and MelroseWakefield Healthcare and promoted Michael Wagner, former Tufts Medical Center CEO, to the position of Chief Physician Executive for Wellforce. Wellforce now includes nearly 3,000 physicians, 12,000 employees, four community hospital campuses, one academic medical center, a children’s hospital, home health and hospice services and $1.7 billion in revenue.
“Over the last three decades, I have had the most rewarding jobs in Massachusetts,” said Deschene. “I am proud of the foundation I have helped to build for Wellforce. We have proven that you can deliver complex care in the community and that you can control health care spending. Wellforce is poised to accelerate health care innovation in Massachusetts. The new executives at our member organizations and our system leaders are ready to take Wellforce into its next phase.”
Deschene began his health care career in Rhode Island and received his master’s degree in Hospital Administration from the University of Minnesota. In 1984, he joined Lowell General Hospital’s leadership team, becoming CEO in 2003. With Deschene at the helm, Lowell General became one of the fastest growing hospitals in Massachusetts and was regularly recognized for its quality, patient satisfaction and employee engagement scores. In 2012, he united Saints Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital. Cleverley +Associates named Lowell General a Top 100 Community Value Provider seven consecutive years. It was also the only Massachusetts hospital named to Modern Healthcare's Best Places to Work in Healthcare.
Deschene was named Healthcare Executive of the Year by the American College of Healthcare Executives and Man of the year by the Lowell Sun in 2012.
“Norm has the great ability to bring people and organizations together to make care better for patients. He has accomplished a great deal for Wellforce, for patients and for Massachusetts, and we are committed to building on the momentum he has created,” said Zane.
Deschene will work with the Wellforce Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth transition before the end of the year. The Board will name interim leadership in the coming weeks and launch a national search for a permanent chief executive.
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