Gov. Maura Healey has tapped Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, to lead the state’s sprawling Department of Health and Human Services.
Walsh, an experienced health care executive, is the latest of Healey’s appointments since the new governor took office on Jan. 5.
“Kate Walsh is exactly the leader Massachusetts needs at this time in health care,” Healy said in a statement. food and housing insecurity.”
Walsh succeeds Marylou Suthers in leading the state’s largest executive office. Suthers, the longest-serving secretary of Health and Human Services, retired earlier this month as the new administration took office.
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services includes a dozen state agencies and the MassHealth program with a total budget of more than $27 billion and 22,000 state employees. The services and programs that fall under the office’s oversight account for 53 percent of the state’s budget and provide treatment to one in three residents, according to EOHHS.
“This is a critical time for our state as we continue to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, widening health care disparities, skyrocketing health care costs and a devastating behavioral health crisis,” Walsh said in a statement.
Health care leaders applauded her appointment to Healey’s cabinet.
Steve Walsh, president of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association (who is not related to Kate Walsh), called her “the epitome of everything our health care system strives to be” and “an outstanding choice.”
Amy Rosenthal, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Health Care For All, said: “We are confident that she will continue to advance health equity, access and affordability of care amid the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges in our health care system that affects people in the community every day.”
Tim Foley, executive vice president of 1199SEIU, the largest health care union in Massachusetts, said Walsh understands the many challenges facing the health care system and its workers.
“But I think she has a lot to learn when it comes to nursing homes and home care,” he told WBUR. “And that’s an area where we hope to work with her as well as the issues that affect hospital workers.”
Walsh has led BMC for nearly 13 years. She previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and senior vice president at Massachusetts General Hospital, among other leadership roles.
She is a graduate of Yale University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Public Health.
At BMC, Walsh launched initiatives to promote health equity and behavioral health and addiction treatment. She advocated on Beacon Hill for more behavioral health care resources and led an affordable housing collaborative in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan to train and connect black and Latino residents to full-time jobs in health care, technology and biotechnologies.
“We are excited for her to bring her experience, passion and commitment to excellence to the Massachusetts community, and we have no doubt that she will be a positive force for people across the state,” said Mark Nunnelly, chairman of the BMC board of trustees. in a statement.
BMC President Dr. Alistair Bell will serve as the hospital’s interim CEO.
With a report by Sam Drysdale of the State House News Service.