Chase Brexton Health Care announced Thursday that it has hired a new president and CEO two months after the last person to head the community health center left amid a contentious unionization effort and badly strained relations between management and employees.
The Baltimore-based health center said that Patrick Mutch, who has held executive positions at several hospitals in Maryland over the past decade, will start in the new position next month.
Mulch, who was not available for comment, was most recently the interim president and CEO at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore.
"I am extremely excited to join Chase Brexton Health Care, and carry on its legacy of community care serving some of Baltimore's most vulnerable populations," Mutch said in a statement. "Chase Brexton's mission is inspiring to me, and I am honored to lead a group of health care providers with such a strong commitment to their patients.
"Health care is changing to integrate all determinants of patient health, including medical, behavioral, dental and social. Chase Brexton is uniquely positioned to accomplish this vision and be a leader in the community."
Bonnie Phipps, the former CEO of St. Agnes, said she hired Mutch as a vice president of physician and strategic services where he oversaw contracting with physicians, strategic planning and communications. He was also the liaison for a community health center located within the hospital, which Phipps believes gave experience he can use at his new job at Chase Brexton.
Phipps described him as a "democratic" leader who likes to hear other people's ideas.
"If I could hire him again, I would," she said.
When Phipps was promoted to a job with St. Agnes' parent, Ascension Health, in May 2015, Mutch took over the job on an interim basis. St. Agnes chose Keith Vander Kolk as its new president in December 2015.
It's not clear what Mutch did subsequently and Chase Brexton declined to provide Mutch's resume or specific details about his work history.
Mutch previously headed Dimensions Healthcare System during a period of financially tough times for the company, which owned hospitals in Prince George's County.
He left after a national company was brought in by a joint state-local oversight committee to improve operations, according to a 2007 article in The Washington Post. The hospital was criticized at the time for giving Mutch a $389,000 severance despite its troubled financial status. The health company said it was bound by employment contracts to make the severance payment.
Mutch has also served as executive director of Mission Health Partners, a health care alliance between St. Agnes Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center. He also headed a hospital in the Boston area.
Chase Brexton's previous CEO, Richard Larison, said in November that he would not renew his contract. His departure followed acrimony between the community health care provider and its employees, which culminated in the unionization of its workforce.
Workers had complained of long workdays, heavy workloads and reduced training, and said they wanted more say in decisions. Chase Brexton officials said employees did not need to unionize.
The organizing efforts turned contentious. Five longtime staff members were fired during the process and said they were let go in retaliation. Members of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community that are a large segment of Chase Brexton's clients held protests and started a petition decrying the dispute and the firings. Lawmakers, workers and patients also publicly criticized the firings.
The firings also prompted leaders with 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Chase Brexton of using the firings to intimidate doctors and medical staff seeking to organize. That case is pending.
Union organizers said they had little knowledge about Mutch.
"We are hoping that we can build a relationship with new leadership and that we can all work together to make Chase Brexton the clinic it can be," said Brian Owens, a lead SEIU organizer.
Mutch said in the statement that he would meet with LGBT community leaders in the coming months.
"I am keenly aware of the important role that Chase Brexton has served in Baltimore's LGBT community over the past 40 years," he said. "These roots run deep, and I commit to honor and uphold them."
The new president said he also hopes to further solidify Chase Brexton's status as a premier community health center and help it to continue to expand throughout Maryland.
An executive search committee that chose Mutch met with Chase Brexton staff to learn more about what they wanted in a leader.
"We were impressed by Patrick's deep understanding of our welcoming, affirming, patient-focused care," board chair Carolyn Kennedy said in a statement. "He possesses a wealth of experience in both nonprofit and for-profit health care systems, and understands how to lead and develop integrated care models."