By Daniel Casciato
Aurelio M. Fernandez, III, FACHE, CEO of Memorial Healthcare, will retire at the end of April after six years leading one of the largest healthcare networks in the state, which includes six hospitals, centers of emergency care, a retirement home and 14,000 full-time staff. employees. Fernandez says he was ready to step down after a 45-year career in healthcare.
“We have a gem here in South Florida,” he says. “Memorial has provided immeasurably the highest quality of care, not only in our county, but in South Florida. We should be very proud to have this kind of resource in our backyard.
Looking back on his tenure, one thing that surprised him was the cooperation of all hospitals in the system during the pandemic.
“Before the vaccines became available, when we were in the middle of the pandemic, all the hospitals in the region collaborated and helped each other,” says Fernandez.
The pandemic of the last two years has certainly been the most difficult period, he admits.
“We found ourselves in uncharted waters,” he says. “But we’ve done extremely well in providing the community we serve with the safest environment possible. We also did everything we needed to do to have a safe environment, such as providing PPE for our doctors, nurses and respiratory therapy staff.
Fernandez, who was born in Havana, Cuba and has resided in South Florida for 61 years, has been a healthcare professional for more than 45 years in the Tri-County market. Sixteen years ago, he joined Memorial Hospital Miramar as CEO. He was promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Memorial Health System in 2012 and in 2016 was selected as President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial by the South Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners.
Prior to joining Memorial Healthcare System, Fernandez spent 11 years in various roles at Tenet Healthcare, including CEO of Hialeah Hospital and Florida Medical Center as well as Executive Director of Tenet Network Management. During the 1990s, Fernandez was CEO of Palm-Med Health Services, which specialized in medical businesses and was actively involved in organizing physician hospital organizations.
Throughout his 16 years at Memorial, he says the system has always had the ability to have the resources to do what’s right for patients.
“Our mission is to be a community supplier,” he explains. “So in South Florida, we not only had the safest environment, but also the most comprehensive level of services, such as cardiology, neuroscience and oncology, for pediatric patients up to adulthood. Very few people in our market have the resources to do this. For me, that was a key differentiator between us and others in the market.
Asked about his greatest achievement, Fernandez says it was the ability to elevate the organization to its full potential.
“You do that by engaging all caregivers, support staff and medical staff to understand the mission and why we are here,” he says. “We have accomplished this in a variety of ways and they are quantifiable and measurable. For me, this is our greatest achievement since I’ve been here.
Fernandez says he will miss the folks at Memorial the most. “We have 14,000 employees,” he says. “We have the best management and administration team and an excellent workforce. There’s a culture of collaborating and doing what’s right for the patient and creating a safe environment that I’ve never seen in my career. I will miss it. I will also miss the fact that every time we had to do a project and went to the commissioners of the council to ask for the resources, they were there willing and able to provide us with the resources – not necessarily financial all the time, but in all case to augment manpower and do a variety of other things.
As he dwells on the future of the healthcare system and its direction, Fernandez says COVID-19 has disrupted healthcare in such a way that it will never be the same again.
“What we need to leverage, at least as far as Memorial is concerned, is to invest a significant amount of resources, both capital and personnel, to elevate our telecommunications platform and leverage it to create a much more robust virtual environment,” he said. said. “Our numbers, in terms of virtual visits and telemedicine, have just skyrocketed, but we must go beyond that. We need to provide the consumer with access to healthcare, even when they are not in person, and leverage this technology to do it virtually and therefore improve access. I don’t see us going back to the old ways. I strongly believe that we need to reallocate our capital to technology. The more we do this, the more the consumer will have access to our services. »
As for what’s next for him? Fernandez plans to rest and relax, at least in the short term.
“I know I won’t do anything for six months to adjust to a new lifestyle,” he says. “But after six months, I’ll reconsider what I’m going to do. I am not interested in working full time; but maybe part time. After 45 years of doing this, I think I’ve paid my debt!
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