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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Update on WCCH for Wednesday:
Former WCCHS CEO Joseph McTernan remembered as exceptional leader

Joseph McTernan
A senior leadership team is running the Wyoming County Community Health System following the sudden death of its chief executive officer.

Joseph McTernan, 44, died Monday after what was described as a brief illness. His death was announced Tuesday morning by WCCHS officials.

"We've got a plan moving forward and right now the leadership team is taking over the day-to-day operations," said Chairwoman Rebecca Ryan of the county's Board of Supervisors.

"There's been a whole leadership team that's developed through the COVID effort," she said. "They worked together on a daily basis. They meet every day under normal circumstances and I feel very confident for the time being that they're very capable. RIght now everybody is just working together."

It's still too early in the process to determine whether the WCCHS will appoint an interim CEO or when a replacement would be hired. Mr. McTernan was hired through a search firm after an extensive process which officials said left no doors open and unexplored.

"As far as timeline, we will begin organizing the process this week and will move expeditiously, but it would be impossible to predict at this time how long it will take," said President Rich Kosmerl of the WCCHS Board of Managers in an emailed response to the Batavia Daily News.

The WCCHS senior leadership team includes the Chief Operating Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer, the Skilled Nursing Facility Administrator, the Chief Financial Officer and the Director of Human Resources and the IT Director.

"All of these positions are filled by experienced personnel," Kosmerl said. "The Med Staff Executive Committee is also in place and supports the CEO position."

The WCCHS includes Wyoming County Community Hospital and the adjacent SNFF. It also operates six primary care locations in Arcade, Attica, Castile, Perry and Warsaw.

The system is among the county's biggest employers, with about 600 people employed.

McTernan, 44, joined the WCCHS in August 2019. He spent several months working closely with former CEO Donald Eichenauer before formally assuming CEO duties on Jan. 1, 2020.

He arrived at the Wyoming County Community Health System just in time for the perfect storm, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit less than three months later.

"What he brought to the table was extraordinary, especially during COVID," Ryan said. "I truly believe that we would have had a very, very difficult time getting through the COVID crisis had he not been at the helm.

"He brought with him his prior experience," she continued. "He worked through Hurricane Sandy when he was downstate, and during emergency situations -- of course nothing equals what we've gone through for the time duration, two and a half years."

McTernan could pull people together, and made sure staff and patients were safe and well-protected, Ryan said.

"He had outstanding healthcare experience that was absolutely vital to get us through what he went through, and he will be greatly, greatly missed," she said.

The WCCHS also released its own statement. "Joe's contributions to our health system over these past years has been invaluable and his leadership and his focus on our patients and community will be greatly missed," officials said. "Joe's leadership vision provided a firm and guiding hand with an unwavering commitment to staff and patient safety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis."

Kosmerl said McTernan brought a strong background in financial and operational improvement and was intimately familiar with state and federal regulations impacting health care and hospital systems.

A native of Rockland County, McTernan started his career as a paramedic in New York City. From there, he began to get into hospital administration, including process improvement and internal consulting roles at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He worked there for more than 12 years before ultimately working at Trinitas Medical Center in Elizabeth, N.J. as vice president of special operations, before taking his position in Wyoming County.

McTernan lived in Orchard Park with his wife and their three children.

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