Hospice Buffalo goes to Chicago for new CEO

January 14, 2014 Updated Jan 14, 2014 at 8:57 AM EDT

By Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First

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Hospice Buffalo goes to Chicago for new CEO

January 14, 2014 Updated Jan 14, 2014 at 8:57 AM EDT

The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care said Friday that it has hired Patricia Ahern as the organization's new chief executive officer, effective March 17.

With 30 years of health care experience including hospice and palliative care, Ahern joins CHPC from Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care, located in suburban Chicago, where she served as president and CEO.

Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care is a $23 million organization that has an average daily census of 325 patients and a palliative care patient census of 600. Ahern is a well respected community leader and is known for successful collaborations within health care, CHPC said in its announcement.

During a phone interview Friday, Ahern said she's anxious to experience the different hospice industry here in New York, which allows just one hospice provider per county or region, selected through the certificate of need process. In the county where Rainbow Hospice operates, it competes against 89 separate hospice programs.

"Going into the legacy portion of my career, I'm a little leery of fighting for every piece of market share," she said. "I'd rather be fighting for quality care."

A registered nurse who also holds an MBA, Ahern brings both clinical and administrative experience in health care. She said she's already found a "kindred spirit" in Dr. Christopher Kerr, Hospice Buffalo's chief medical officer who has been serving as interim CEO.

"Dr. Kerr is a rock star," she said. "I have had the great fortune to work with great doctors and Dr. Kerr is amazing. Hospice Buffalo has an amazing leadership team and medical staff. I want to serve them and make sure they can do what they do best."

Kerr, who participated in the search process, said the board looked a wide range of candidates from broad health care backgrounds, but came back to its core mission of hospice care with Ahern. He pointed to her nursing background as an asset.

"She will interface strongly with the community and our front line staff," he said. "It's helpful to have someone come in with her background and as a nurse leader."

In addition to different state governance rules for hospice, Ahern will also need to adjust to a larger workforce: The Hospice Buffalo family includes half a dozen affiliated nonprofit agencies with combined revenue over $60 million, treating more than 600 patients with a staff of 450 and 1,400 active volunteers.

Buffalo Hospice began its search for a new CEO a year ago after the agency ended its contract with Flint Besecker, who served as CEO for just over two years following a 16-year stretch on the board of directors.

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