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January 9, 2023 5 to Watch

New to CT, Trinity Health regional CEO Carter takes reins amid challenging healthcare environment

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Montez Carter is the new CEO of Trinity Health Of New England, parent company to several Connecticut hospitals, including St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.
Montez Carter 
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Trinity Health Of New England’s President and CEO Montez Carter is new to Connecticut, but has worked for the Catholic healthcare system for more than a decade.

Carter’s tenure with the nonprofit healthcare operator gives him an understanding of its faith-based mission, which he says differentiates the hospitals among their peers. While Trinity Health does not preach Catholicism to patients or staff, religious tenets drive its mission to help people obtain access to quality medical treatment.

“When people come into our care settings, it’s important for us to deliver that care in a way that’s very reverent, and in a way that allows for the dignity of all individuals, whether they have something material or whether they do not have something material,” Carter said.

The organization has a “special affinity for those who are vulnerable and underserved,” he added.

On Oct. 3, Carter took the helm of the regional healthcare system, which owns four hospitals in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts, at a time when hospitals are facing myriad challenges as they adapt to post-pandemic life.

Trinity Health Of New England is the third-largest hospital operator in Connecticut, after Yale New Haven Health and Hartford HealthCare.

It runs St. Francis and Mount Sinai Rehabilitation hospitals in Hartford, St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, along with Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.

Trinity Health’s Connecticut operations reported $1.6 billion in operating revenue and an operating surplus of $34.7 million in fiscal 2021, down from a $65.9 million surplus a year earlier, according to financial data from the Office of Health Strategy.

The organization’s leaders refer to each hospital as its own “ministry.” The New England regional entity is Trinity’s largest in the country.

Ideal choice

Carter’s 12 years of experience brings continuity to the position. Before moving to Connecticut, he was based out of Trinity’s Georgia division, most recently as president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health Care System, which includes three hospitals, a medical group, home health care/hospice agency, outpatient facilities and a retirement community.

Carter began his career as a pharmacist, then moved into a leadership role as vice president of operations at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, Georgia. He became president of St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro, Georgia and St. Mary’s in Athens.

He was chosen as Trinity Health Of New England’s president and CEO after a national search that included about 50 internal and external candidates.

James C. Smith, chairman of Trinity Health Of New England’s board of directors, said Carter was the ideal choice because of his professional and personal attributes, including his mission-driven nature, empathy and respect for other people.

“He has assimilated himself amazingly quickly, partly because of the experiences that he has had before,” said Smith, who chaired the selection committee and is the former CEO and chairman of Webster Bank. “He’s proven to be the person we thought that he would be, has connected beautifully with constituencies internally and externally, understands what the strategic program is, has a great sense of organization and his empathy has already proven to be a great asset.”

Focus areas

Carter said one of his top priorities is for Trinity Health Of New England to continue evolving to meet the community’s needs.

“That can happen in different ways,” Carter said. “Some of that could be through expansion. Some of that can be through acquisitions. Some of that could be through partnerships with other existing providers. So, I think that all of those options are available to us.”

Trinity Health already has partnerships with other hospitals, including Yale, which runs the Smilow Cancer Center at St. Francis. Connecticut Children’s runs the inpatient pediatric unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury.

“We have multiple relationships throughout our region with various providers,” Carter said. “And again, that’s dependent upon the needs of that community.”

The hospital landscape in Connecticut has been consolidating, with healthcare systems opening outpatient centers and acquiring medical practices. Prospect Medical Holdings is expected to sell two Connecticut-based healthcare systems — that include Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals — to Yale New Haven Health, pending regulatory approvals.

Rising costs and an ongoing worker shortage continue to strain hospital resources.

“It’s a very challenging time, I think for everyone nationally, because there’s a supply and demand problem right now where the labor supply is not as plentiful as we would like for it to be,” Carter said.

Trinity Health Of New England is working to secure contract labor as a temporary solution, and longer-term, is partnering with educational institutions to encourage students to pursue careers in health care, he explained.

Helping patients obtain more proactive treatment, to reduce their reliance on higher-cost services such as intensive care units and emergency rooms, is an important part of curbing healthcare costs, Carter said. To that end, Trinity Health plans to continue investing in ambulatory outpatient services.

There will also be capital projects, including implementation of a master facilities plan at St. Francis. Phase one of the plan involves reconstructing the parking garage, a project that is currently underway, along with upgrades to the ER at St. Mary’s Hospital.

The hospital system is also undergoing a technology integration that will allow information to be shared more efficiently across its providers.

Carter is a sports fan and collector of vintage sports memorabilia.

In his office, a signed basketball sits encased in glass near his desk. It’s autographed by basketball legends Cliff Hagen and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who visited an orphanage at Springfield’s Mercy Medical Center decades ago. Hospital staff gave it to him as a welcome gift.

Carter succeeds Dr. Reginald J. Eadie, who held the position of president and CEO since 2018, and was promoted to senior vice president of physician enterprise development for Trinity’s national organization.

Carter is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and has served on several boards, including the American Hospital Association.

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