Chemed Corp. (NYSE: CHE) VITAS Healthcare has appointed Alexander Fernandez as its Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President (EVP).
Fernandez oversees the Florida hospice company’s finances, investor relations, and accounting functions. It will also help drive VITAS growth, accelerate positive financial trends and ensure compliance.
Fernandez is joining the company at a pivotal moment in its journey as the company continues to grapple with staffing issues and the pandemic’s lingering headwinds.
“I am thrilled to be joining VITAS at such a pivotal moment in the history of the organization,” Fernandez said in a statement. “I look forward to partnering with this team and all of its employees, immersing myself in the culture and pursuing strategies that will ultimately drive VITAS to become a leading end-of-life service provider.”
A licensed chartered accountant in Georgia and Florida, Fernandez has over twenty years of experience in financial, administrative and leadership roles in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining VITAS, Fernandez served as Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Broward Health. He joined the Florida Health System in 2014 as CFO of Broward Health Medical Center and Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital.
Prior to that, Fernandez was the chief operating officer of the Good Samaritan Medical Center at Tenet Healthcare Corp. (NYSE:THC). He held this position for two years after serving as Chief Financial Officer at Tenet’s North Shore Medical Center from 2006 to 2012.
At VITAS, Fernandes is responsible for improving the company’s financial infrastructure to support current growth plans. This includes its ability to scale financial strategies in selected markets nationwide, VITAS said in a press release.
Most likely, VITAS will take advantage of its new CFO’s familiarity with the Florida market, a key growth area for the company. In recent years, many new centers and hospitals have opened throughout the state.
According to President and CEO Nick Westfall, healthy profits will be critical to achieving VITAS’ growth goals.
“He [Alex] has earned his renowned reputation in the South Florida medical community based on his proven track record of success in every role throughout his career,” said Westfall. “I’m thrilled to have Alex join our team and help lead our company’s ongoing transformation to fulfill our mission of providing high-quality care to more members of the communities we serve across the country every day.”
Headquartered in Miami, founded in 1978, VITAS operates 50 hospice programs in 14 states and the District of Columbia. The company has approximately 9,800 employees providing advanced medical care to 17,783 patients at home, in 26 inpatient hospice units, and in institutions and hospitals.
The ability to strengthen its clinical workforce is key to VITAS’ growth, Westfold says. This includes the availability of funds to recruit and retain clinical staff.
“We want to be able to scale up clinical capacity to meet the demand that we are seeing and we are still committed to that,” Westfall said in the fourth quarter 2022 earnings report. “The bottom line is that as long as we can continue to improve our retention, improve our hiring, which results in net growth for clinical opportunities, then we are really good at other operational metrics.”
VITAS last year introduced a bonus program for hiring and retaining employees. The program included a one-time deduction of $2,000 to $15,000 per worker for nurses, nurse managers, social workers, and home care assistants.
VITAS has reported a staffing increase since the launch of the initiative in July 2022, with 275 new licensed physicians most recently hired, including 103 in the fourth quarter. The increase in headcount has spurred an increase in patient censuses, hospitalizations and the company’s headcount, according to Westfall.