Governor Maura Healey appointed Boston Medical Center President and CEO Kate Walsh to lead the state’s sprawling Health and Human Services Secretariat.
Walsh, a seasoned health care executive, is Healy’s latest appointment since the new governor took office Jan. 5.
“Kate Walsh is exactly the kind of leader Massachusetts needs right now in healthcare,” Healy said in a statement. Food and housing are insecure. “
Walsh succeeds Marylou Sudders to lead the state’s largest executive office. Saders, the longest-serving HHS secretary, retired earlier this month with a new administration.
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services includes more than a dozen state agencies and the MassHealth program, with a combined budget of more than $27 billion and 22,000 public employees. According to EOHHS, services and programs overseen by the office account for 53 percent of the state’s budget and treat one-third of residents.
“This is a pivotal time for our state as we continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, widening health disparities, skyrocketing health care costs and devastating Behavioral health crisis.”
Health care leaders applauded her appointment to Healy’s cabinet.
Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association president Steve Walsh (no relation to Kate Walsh) called her “the embodiment of everything our healthcare 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 Improving the equity, affordability and accessibility of healthcare affects the systems of people in the Commonwealth every day.”
Tim Foley, executive vice president of 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union in Massachusetts, said Walsh understands the many challenges facing the healthcare system and its workers.
“But I think she still has a lot to learn in nursing homes and home care,” he told WBUR. “This is an area where we want to work with her, and issues that affect hospital staff.”
Walsh has led BMC for nearly 13 years. She previously served in leadership roles as executive vice president and chief operating officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and senior vice president at Massachusetts General Hospital.
She graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Public Health degree.
At BMC, Walsh led initiatives that advance health equity, behavioral health, and addiction treatment. She advocated for more resources for behavioral health care at Beacon Hill and led a partnership to build affordable housing in Dorchester, Roxbury and Matapan to train and integrate Black and Latinx residents with health care , technology and biotech full-time jobs.
“We are excited to bring her experience, passion and commitment to excellence to Massachusetts and firmly believe that she will be a positive force for people across the state,” BMC Board Chairman Mark Nunnelly said in a statement.
BMC President Dr. Alastair Bell will serve as interim CEO of the hospital.
Reporting by Sam Drysdale of the State Legislative Press Service.